newyorksubalien has evolved. New city, new life, new blog

newyorksubalien has evolved. New city, new life, new blog.

Yes, I’m still socially-insecure and still deemed too primitive a life form for a bank account. I still can’t say ‘water’ correctly and voice-recognition software still doesn’t understand my number 8.

Meanwhile Superalien is still as super (at least in my eyes), Male Mini-Me is taller than all of us and Mini-Mum has returned to the home of the Mini, only popping back from London to sleep, be fed and help balance out testosterone levels.

But in my new home of Chicago, I can at least lay claim to my own subgroup. I’m now Chi-rish as in Chicago Irish. Apparently the hyphen is important so as not to be confused with Chinese Irish or the town in Armenia. But I’m trusting my readers not to be churlish and to forgive these, my (hyphen-less) Chirish chatters…..

Thursday, November 14, 2013

From Big Apple to the Big Onion – a newcomer’s first thoughts

The Big Onion, the Second City, the Windy City – our new hometown has as many nicknames as our old one.

The Big Onion you might not have heard of and derives from the original Native American name for the area – shikaakwa (you know you want to say it aloud) or wild onion.

Second City evolved at the end of the 19th Century when Chicago became - guess what - the second largest city in the USA in terms of population. Then it became more of a derogatory term in the continuous battle with New York. But no point in Chicagoans being offended as Chicago is now actually the third largest city in the USA after NY and LA.

And as for the Windy City, you can take your pick. Some say it’s the obvious. That great big puddle right by the city called Lake Michigan may have something to do with it. But sure it’s only about four times the size of the wee corner of the Emerald Isle that I come from so why would that make any difference! Others agree it’s to do with a large amount of air – but hot air expended tirelessly by its politicians.

If that were the case, then New York would also be in the running for that title. But it seems to me the two cities make more noise about their differences than their similarities. For example...

Don’t mention tall buildings – this week Chicago’s Willis Tower lost out to New York’s nearly-finished Freedom Tower as America’s tallest building. Both rely on tall pokey bits at the top (ever the architect’s daughter) to get those essential extra inches. But it would appear that the Freedom Tower’s pokey bit is a little more permanent than that of the poor Willis Tower. So it’s been pipped by a slightly longer post.

All this ‘mine’s bigger than yours’ goes back a long way. While most people associate New York with skyscrapers, Chicago was the birthplace of all things multistoried, with the first 10-floored, steel-framed beast rising from the depths of Chicago in the mid-1880s.

Hot dog battles – in New York, use of ketchup is optional; in Chicago it’s a crime

Gotham and the City that Never Sleeps – two well-known names for New York. Less well-known is that Chicago masqueraded as Gotham in the recent Bat Man movies. That’s probably because Chicago does go to sleep, giving production crews the chance to film in empty streets from about 10:30 pm….or 9pm on a week night.

Pizzas – we’re back to size again except this time it’s not about height but depth. But there’s no question here over the winner. While the New York variety is thin and crusty, Chicago is thick and deep, up to 3 inches deep and baked in a cake tin. We’ve yet to steel ourselves to try one (it’s not got THAT cold yet). But anyone worried about the health issues could perhaps try out one of the deep pizza walking tours on offer, complete with promises not to put you into a food coma.

Taxis – everyone knows the iconic New York taxi is yellow. But probably few know the story that the idea of decking out a fleet of cars in bright-custard hues was born in Chicago. This was after a gentleman whose surname is now eponymous with a well-known car hire company asked the local university to pinpoint the most standout colour. He then founded the Yellow Cab Company in 1915 and it is also no surprise that yellow is still used as the background colour in said rental company's logo today. 

What has changed is that Chicago cabs are not always yellow, in fact apparently only one in four are. Today the most popular hue is white, either on its own or in combination with another colour. This takes a while getting used to but at least allayed my concerns about the many blue and white “police cars” that seemed to frequent our local area!

For all their differences, there is one way in which Chicago and New York are seen as closely linked - at least in the subalien household. First there were many Aprils in Paris, then there was New York, New York and now it's fair to say that My Kind of Town, Chicago is. Yup, it's all getting a wee bit like some weird Frank Sinatra pilgrimage. Perhaps there is something Super's not telling me. San Francisco next?