Monthly Archives: July 2014

Chicago’s Deep Dish Pizza #NOWM

Regional food is the best part of traveling and has been for years. On our honeymoon in New Orleans twenty-three years ago, we ate beignets and crawfish and soft shell crabs and muffalettas. I am originally from the home of Buffalo wings, but what I really miss is beef on weck; a hard roll, and who knew that a truly hard roll was an East Coast regional food, with kosher salt and caraway seeds on top called a kimmelweck roll served with thinly sliced rare roast beef soaked with au jus. My mouth is watering just describing it.

I then lived in St. Louis where the regional food claims to fame are toasted ravioli and provel cheese. Honestly, I’m not a fan of either. One cannot grow up with East Coast style pizza and claim to also like thin crust pizza topped with provel cheese. Those two regional preferences cancel each other out.

Here is Chicago, the regional food claim to fame is deep dish pizza with the sauce on top. Gino’s East is next door to the hotel, so I knew that I would eat there once during my trip (and writing marathon). But Sunday at dinner time, twenty or more people stood waiting on the sidewalk, trying to not crowd too closely to the sidewalk tables. Monday night at dinner time, twenty or more people again stood waiting their turns. I knew deep dish pizza would not be part of my dinner plans. But on Tuesday at lunchtime, I walked right in. No one on the sidewalk, and not many people inside. I had a choice of sitting at the bar or ordering the lunch express. Oh yeah, I chose the express. Before I finished paying my personal deep dish pizza was waiting on a tray. It’s not East Coast pizza, but more importantly, Chicago-style pizza does not use provel cheese.

Tonight, I wandered around. The hotel and next door Gino’s East are about a block off the tourist-beaten path; at 7pm, ten people or so are waiting for deep dish pizza. At the nearby Giordano’s restaurant, another landmark deep dish locale more on the tourist-beaten path, at least twenty people are still waiting to be seated. And it occurred to me, do locals eat regional food?

Is everyone in New Orleans eating beignets for breakfast and crawfish for dinner every day? Do people in Buffalo only eat wings and beef on weck? Do St. Louisans scarf down toasted ravioli and Imo’s pizza every night? Do Chicagoans wait in long lines to eat deep dish pizza? I don’t think so. I think what makes regional food popular are the visitors; people who will eat the regional food every day are those who have to travel to find it. And I certainly miss my beef on weck more now that it is 620 miles away. And yesterday’s deep dish pizza was extra delicious since I will be 184 miles away the next time that I’m craving it.

Gino's East Deep Dish Pizza

Windows–the most obvious manifestation of human presence #NOWM

In Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art’s retrospective exhibit of Isa Genzken’s work, her early 1980’s sculptures of window shapes is described as “Windows can be seen as the most obvious manifestation of the human presence in a building, a portal for all important light, air, and spatial perspective.”

And yet, here in the third largest city in the United States, I’m not sure that a window is the “most obvious manifestation of the human presence.” As I walk the streets of the Magnificent Mile, the windows are above my head. I am not even aware of the windows without deliberately looking up. Human presence is obvious behind every car window, standing at every crosswalk, and sitting in every restaurant. And even when I do look up, I don’t see any presence at a window. The windows are tinted; the blinds are drawn; the people are working away from these “portal(s) for all important light, air, and spatial perspective.”

Not just in this large city, but in every populated area, I think the “most obvious manifestation of the human presence” is building–constructing and destructing. A four-story building needs to be torn down to make room for a double-digit story building? Or a recreation area for the humans who are living far behind their windows? Or for the dogs that are trapped behind those windows–windows that pretend to be portals to light and air but that prevent the dogs from enjoying either so that a dog park or green space must be built.

The windows don’t make our presence known; they are an attempt to remind ourselves that the “all important light, air, and spatial perspective” is out there and we humans need to leave the glassed in boxes and run in the park.

Construction on Northwestern's campus

My Chicago Writing Marathon Day 1 #NOWM #SOL

Well, I was born in a small town,
And I can breathe in a small town,
Gonna die in this small town,
And that’s prob’ly where they’ll bury me.
–John Mellencamp

Well, I wasn’t really born in a small town. Actually a suburb of the 50th largest city in the US, and I was raised in a suburb of the 10th largest city. I had NEVER seen a Walmart store until I went college in a small town. 17,000 townies and 6,000 students–although it may have been 11,000 townies and 6,000 students. And I married a man from a small town, about 9,000.

But we moved to small cities–the capital of Illinois and the capital of Kansas. Not really the hustle and bustle of a large city, but both had a healthy selection of cultural events and restaurants. Then we moved again. To a small town.

The census sign says 21,000 folks. But in town, we consider it 11,000 townies and 10,000 college students. A different college town from 20 years earlier, but similar in so many years.

And as a teacher, after 12 years in this small town high school, I know so many people, but I do feel like I can breathe in this small town.

So imagine my surprise when I enjoyed running in the big city today! I am in the 3rd largest city; I have visited Chicago before but with family and for school trips. This is my first solo trip! So after my morning/afternoon meetings, I relaxed and then decided to go running on the famous (?) Lake Front Trail that runs between Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan. I was concerned about car and truck fumes. No one said, “Hello,” when we passed. And I was both annoyed by the walkers who couldn’t get out of my way and worried that I would be wiped out by a speedy cyclist. Swimmers? There are people who choose to swim along the Lake Front Trail in Lake Michigan AND lifeguards are present? Too much.

And my run was GREAT!! I ran better than I normally do; I didn’t want to be the runner passed by everyone else. I didn’t choke on any exhaust fumes. No one said, “Hi,” but no said anything mean either. No one looked at me as though it was obvious that I am an out-of-towner. Although I will never swim in Lake Michigan.

I may die in that small town, but I have found that I am not too much of a “hayseed” (Mellencamp’s word) to visit the big town and like it.

Lake Front Trail Run