What I Saw in Chicago

I love travelling. Why?

It’s definitely not the process and amenities of traveling by air.

It’s the people. The people you meet. The people you see. The communities you encounter.

I’m in Chicago right now for work. Monday and Tuesday meetings for me, so my wife, daughter, and I flew in Saturday to give us some time to check out the city before I earn my paycheck, a couple days for them to go on adventures on their own, then  today together before we fly back in the evening.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most: the diversity of our country.

  • People are staring at my daughter. Why? She’s a natural blond. In the Pacific Northwest that’s a common sight, with the heavy infusion of Scandinavian and northern European lineage. In downtown Chicago, with its heavy slice of southern and Eastern European heritage, not so much. Well, some of them are also staring because she’s a beautiful young woman with large breasts. FML.
  • We act differently as you traverse our nation. In the Pacific Northwest, our collective demeanor is described as “Seattle nice,” which translates to “passive aggressive pain-in-the-ass.” We couldn’t tell you what’s actually on our minds if our coffee-drinking, Seahawks-cheering, outdoor-gear wearing selves depended on it. In Chicago, people are a tad more direct. An oft-used tap of the horn of any steering wheel is a helpful exclamation mark to such candor.
  • In the Pacific Northwest, there’s a massive presence of Asian-Americans built into the fabric of the community. In Chicago, African-Americans are the dominant minority. And just like other places in the East, like Washington, DC, the overwhelming prevalence of minorities in service industry jobs reminds me we have so much more work to do as a country to improve our schools so that the concept of equal opportunity comes closer to reality.
  • You rarely see a cop walking the streets in Seattle. In some parts of downtown Chicago, like the Magnificent Mile, they’re everywhere, usually traveling in 2s or 3s.
  • You can’t move throughout the Seattle area without running into a Thai food joint, or Vietnamese, or Japanese, or Indian. That’s not the casein Chicago, but man, can I interest you in some Italian food, steak, or pizza? They have it covered.
  • Chicago is like East Coast-lite, in that the sense of history and related landmarks is constantly visible if you pay attention. In much younger Seattle, there’s all too little of that because we our heritage as major urban areas is so much younger. History adds character, and I wish the West Coast had more.

Here’s the best part: it’s all the same damn country. There are US flags all over downtown Chicago, the most beautiful of which in my sighting was one floating gently over the WGN building. It’s the kind of meticulously and ornately carved building, you rarely see in the West: cathedral meets skyscraper. And in the midst of the hustle and bustle of a huge urban jungle, I saw Old Glory floating majestically in the breeze above it all.

Awesome.

Other observations and reminders that jumped out:

  • We love our sports. The Bears and Raiders played at Soldier Field on Sunday. Jerseys and team garb everywhere. It’s no surprise, just like you’d see outside CenturyLink Field on a Seahawks game day, but still fun to see.
  • My wife is hot. Whether casual as can be to workout or take a yoga class to being decked out for heading out on the town, she’s gorgeous! Yes, I love her for way, way, way more than her looks, but I’m reminded she is a beautiful woman! In an Uber the driver asked her about the temperature in the back of the vehicle: “Are you hot?” I instantly responded: “Yeah, she’s pretty hot!”
  • You can have Starbucks on every corner like Seattle, but that doesn’t make a coffee-drinking culture. You serve coffee in a restaurant for breakfast or at a conference in tiny cups? You don’t take your caffeine seriously.
  • Yoga is yoga, but each studio and teacher has its own character. We visited two different studios. The first: great studio, bad teacher. The second, ok studio, pretty good teacher. And totally different vibe from each of those ingredients and their respective community. Another reminder why I strive to teach as my authentic self when I instruct a class, not anyone else. And a reminder that when my lovely bride and I open up our own studio that it will be what we create, not an image of any specific studio we’ve encountered.
  • Embracing your inner bad ass is fun. Walking around like a lemming, plowing through the obligations of life is no good. I saw way too much of that shuffling along the streets of Chicago. Grab life by the horns and make it yours.
  • Speaking of which, my daughter is one independent young woman. She’s not afraid to be herself, and not going to tolerate any of the BS typically tossed the way of an attractive young woman strolling in a major urban environment [insert grateful father face here].
  • Uber > taxis.
  • We’re all ultimately dealing with the same stuff. In life, and at work. The professional challenges my peers in 36 different Blue Cross Blue Shield plans across the country described in my work meetings? The same as mine. Oh, there are nuances, but only serious variable is the geography.
  • There’s something about this blog. Two professional acquaintances from other parts of the country mentioned it and the impact it’s had on them. Getting real and raw really does have a market. A big market. I’m still thinking about that.

All in all, Chicago was a cool place to visit and a good trip. But, it’s not home.

I’m glad to be leaving, and eager to keep moving toward the life my lovely bride and I are destined to lead.

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