Chicago skyline from Chicago River: a truly magnificent "smelly onion"
“Eventually, I think Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world.”
Frank Lloyd Wright
“I give you Chicago. It is not London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from snout to tail.”
Henry Louis Mencken
"...if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines, that I could write stories just as rotten. As a matter of fact, although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines."
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Chicago native, on deciding to become a writer
I used to worship at the alter of Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose Tarzan books got me swinging on backyard vines and wrestling with imaginary gorillas before I was eight years old. Edgar was born in Chicago and he would probably be considered the least of the famous writers produced by this city, writers that include Hemingway, Raymond Chandler, Ray Bradbury, and Saul Bellow.
So, her I am, too, a writer wallowing in one of the world's great cities, trying hard not to feel like a golly-whiz bumpkin just off the farm amidst this grand skyline. But, golly whiz, one does get a crick in the neck the first few days here from looking up--up, up, up, up, and all around. It does stagger the faculties, this Oz of glass and steel that seem to emerge directly from the blue water of ocean-lake Michigan.
It's now day three and I'm about to finish this blog entry and head out again. Maybe today as I cross Michigan Ave. to the Art Institute of Chicago for another few hours of enthusiastic shuffling and staring, shuffling and staring, I'll be able to stifle the thus-far irrepressible urge to look up. Tomorrow I'll be able be like travel writer Paul Theroux and be hard and cynical and grumpy and write about the actual writers who came from this town. Or maybe about the food, or the wonderful, conversation-stopping rattle and roar of the elevated railway, or the lovely young women dressed so fetchingly in their summer-in-the-city minimals.