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Allegiance Switching From One Large City To Another.

July 18, 2008

I’m switching allegiance from my, soon to be, previous closest to my, soon to be, newest closest, favorite city. It’s not like a fair-weather friend kind of thing – hope I’m not that shallow – it’s more the proximity kind. Plus the fact that it is THE big city in the state N and I are moving to. Permanently. Sometime soon.

I want to make clear from the start that because I’m more familiar with Chicago than I am with Seattle, this post is going to appear to be more in Chicago’s favor. Not necessarily so. This is not a competition between the two cities, only a limited comparison based upon my experiences or lack thereof. I must also make clear that I don’t have that close a personal relationship with Chicago; she’s been the big city an hour and a half from our home where we drive to on occasion. A place that offers great cultural and visual stimulation, a welcoming change from the smallish town where we reside. N has some friends in Chi-town whom we see from time to time, but my connection to the city is only because of its “not too far” proximity from our town; plus the fact that it’s a fun place to visit.

I suspect I’m going to have a much closer relationship with Seattle; we already have good friends there and it’s physically closer than the one and a half hour drive we’ve had to negotiate often through snarling traffic in Illinois. And because it’s smaller, Seattle will be easier to get to know. And that I look forward to doing. 

So Chicago is going to have to step aside for Seattle; from my old, closest, biggest city:

 Chicago Skyline Hi-Res.jpg

To my new, closest, biggest city:

Seattle pano stitch fir0002.jpg

This got me to thinking about the two cities, neither of which I have resided in or ever will, but ones that have been and will be a “neighbor.” Chicago I have explored a fair amount but Seattle’s surface I’ve only just begun to scratch. I began to ponder what made each city unique: what were some of the qualities that I have previously enjoyed in Chicago vis-à-vis some of the qualities I’ve only heard about in Seattle.

They are both on the water: one a (fresh water) Great Lake, the other the salt water Puget Sound. They both have a stunning skyline composed of unique buildings – many skyscrapers, but Chicago has the tallest in this country with the Sears Tower, while Seattle has the most unique with the Space Needle built for the 1962 World’s Fair (it stands at 605 feet).

When it was completed in 1973, Chicago’s Sears Tower was 1,451 feet high, but with the installation of two antennas in 1982 its total height increased to 1,705 feet (one of which was later extended to 1,730 feet). To me this is the equivalent of saying that if I wore a hat like “The Cat in the Hat,” I would be at least 6′ 8″ tall.

Chicago is the much larger city covering an area of 234 square miles, with a population around 3 million; while Seattle’s population is under a million and covers an area of 84 square miles.

They both have great restaurants with somewhat differing foods (will have to leave the differentiation to my foodie friends to fill me in), great music, galleries and museums. Although true to my, soon to be, old closest city, Chicago’s visual art gallery selection probably rules (because I’m more familiar with it and because there’s more to look at being the larger city). Sorry Seattle, I’ll educate myself more comprehensively, then perhaps I can be more even and fair about that last distinction. Seattle does have a wonderful new sculpture park though.

Music-wise they are both seriously on the map. Seattle’s influences have been from the likes of Woody Guthrie, Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and of course Jimi Hendrix (whose life and music is given full honor at the Experience Music Project), to mention just a few.

 View of the EMP from the Seattle Center with the monorail traveling through it.

And Chicago has the Blues.

From Wikipedia: The Chicago blues is a form of blues music that developed in Chicago, Illinois by taking the basic acoustic guitar and harmonica-based Delta blues and adding electrically amplified guitar, amplified bass guitar, drums, piano, and sometimes saxophone, and making the harmonica louder with a microphone and an instrument amplifier. The music developed when poor Black workers did the “Great Migration” from the South into the industrial cities of the North such as Chicago in the first half of the twentieth century.

Chicago Blues has a more extended palette of notes than the standard six-note blues scale; often, notes from the major scale and dominant 9th chords are added, which gives the music a more “jazz feel” whilst still being in the confines of the blues genre. Chicago blues is also known for its heavy rolling bass.

Well-known Chicago musicians include singer/songwriters such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Willie Dixon; guitar players such as Freddie King and Buddy Guy; and “harp” (blues slang for harmonica) players such as Little Walter and Charlie Musselwhite. 

Chardog at Gold Coast Dogs.

I know that Chicago’s standing in the culinary world is not limited to the type of street food shown above, but has, over the past few decades, developed into one of the world’s premiere restaurant cities, featuring a number of celebrity chefs — a list which includes Charlie Trotter, Rick Tramonto, Jean Joho, Grant Achatz, and Rick Bayless. 

Restaurants abound in Seattle, with Tom Douglas being the best known restaurateur. He won the 1994 James Beard Award for Best Northwest Chef. He has helped to define Northwest cuisine, starting with his first restaurant called Dahlia Lounge, which opened in 1989. This was followed by Etta’s Seafood and Palace Kitchen, which was nominated for Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation in 1996. More recently he opened a Greek restaurant, Lola, and a pizzeria named Serious Pie.

Then, of course, there’s Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle: 

  Inside Seattle’s Art Museum: an installation by Cai Guo-Qiang.

Chicago’s Art Institute:

AICFront.jpg

“Hog butcher for the world,
Tool maker, stacker of wheat,
Player with railroads and the nation’s freight handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the big shoulders.”

From Carl Sandburg’s 1916 poem, “Chicago.”

Chicago skyline photo courtesy Massimo Catarinella.

To be continued………………   

 

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