March/April • Volume 43 • Issue 3

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Chicago: Windier than Jazz Hands

Come on, babe / Why don’t we paint the town? /And all that jazz

Jordan Aubry Robison, ASA Governance

Chicago skyline at night

Have you ever driven through Chicago? It’s not that bad, save for those few times when the wind picks up the lake water and throws it on Lakeshore Drive. Lake water jumping onto a major highway will hardly cause a Chicago native to flinch. If you are new to Chicago (and it’s not too windy), Lakeshore Drive is a fun, winding road that changes to a highway, to a city street, to a highway, to a city street with traffic lights, and then back into a highway. A piece of advice: avoid toll roads like the Chicago Skyway, if at all possible. It offers a beautiful view but with a hefty price.

One Big Windy City

Chicago is the third most populous city in the United States; O’Hare International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world. The cultural characteristics of Chicago range from Chicago jazz, Chicago blues, art, soul, the creation of house music as well as stand-up and improv comedy. It is a city with many nicknames. Perhaps its best-known are the “Windy City” and “Second City.”

Even Chicago’s professional sports teams carry with them a unique culture and history. Chicago is after all, a maniacal sports town. Watching a game is a local rite of passage. From the ever-hopeful fans of the Chicago Cubs to “DA BEARS!” and former Bears head coach Mike Ditka; to the Chicago Bulls and the house that Michael Jordan built. You’ve heard of Michael Jordan, right? He is, so far, the only man to be capable of flying through the air. No really! Ask a Chicago native, the man can fly. He uses his tongue to help him steer his way toward the basketball hoops in the sky.

Consider yourself a foodie? You’ll be in heaven in Chicago. From Colombian bakeries to breakfast any time of the day.

One is never short of something to do in Chicago. It’s even more famous for its street festivals than… dare I say? New York City! Like macaroni and cheese? Yeah, they’ve got a festival for that. Ever tried Windy City barbeque? Guess what? There’s a festival for that. What sounds better than mariachi bands and tequila? Putting both together in a festival. How about an international puppet theater festival? Yes, puppets.

Deep-Dish Neighborhoods

Chicago-style pizza, also known as deep-dish pizza, is three-inches high, contains many layers of flavorful cheese, pizza sauce, and toppings. The taste is out of this world.  It is more like eating a piece of pie made of pizza parts—very yummy pizza parts. The Windy City is analogous to the deep dish. A deep-dish pizza made with abounding layers of cultures, ethnicities, and customs.

The neighborhoods in Chicago number more than 200. In 1920, the Social Science Research Committee at the University of Chicago divided Chicago into 77 community areas. like Southwest side Chicago, Far Southeast Chicago, Far Southwest Chicago, Far North Side Chicago, Northwest Side Chicago, West Side Chicago. There’s Central Chicago with the Magnificent Mile, a concentration of high-end retail, fur coats, and materialism. There’s North Side Chicago, a more residential section which includes descendants of Eastern European immigrants, and the huge public park known as Lincoln Park. It is also the home of Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs. South side Chicago, the largest section of the city, houses 60 percent of the city’s population.

Locals describe Chicago as a collection of close-knit communities. Within these tight communities people know each other like a small town would—a community-oriented town within the city of Chicago.


Boystown is a neighborhood with an eccentric mix of open sexuality and fearless originality. After all, the first gay-rights group in the United States, The Society of Human Rights, started in Chicago. In Boystown, S&M shops, sex shops, and things other towns might consider taboo are out in the open. Pride flags adorn nearly every home and business establishment. If you are in Chicago during their annual Gay Pride Parade, you should check it out. A Chicago local described it as a combination of a Fourth of July parade and Halloween. And once the party starts it won’t stop until the early hours of the morning.

Magnificent Mile

The Magnificent Mile is aptly named. It is a full mile of flagship shops on Michigan Avenue. The stores on Lake Shore Drive extend all the way to Millennium Park. The likelihood of something being out of stock at one of these stores is as likely as the Cubs winning the World Series. And if you are lucky, you might run into a celebrity or two.

According to a former employee of the Chicago Magnificent Mile Gap store, they once closed the store down for Oprah. She was there with U2 front man Bono and Penelope Cruz, to introduce Gap’s Product Red campaign. (Product Red is a licensed brand that seeks to engage the private sector in raising awareness and funds to help eliminate HIV/AIDS in Africa.) It was the only time that Gap had ever closed its doors to the public.

The Magnificent Mile isn’t all shopping. There are theaters and museums as well, including the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Sociology Started Here, Sort of …

The first major U.S. university department dedicated to sociology started in 1892 in none other than the University of Chicago. This is also where the American Journal of Sociology was founded. University of Chicago nurtured many of the major sociologists of its time. Here sociologists were cultivated, processed, and sent out into the wild.

This August, make Chicago your Second City. Chi-Town will surely razzle dazzle you. Jazz hands and more. Just do it.

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