reading Studs Terkel on Chicago

The simple truth is that our God, Chicago’s God is Janus, the two-faced one. One is that of Warner Brothers films with Jimmy Cagney & Edward G. Robinson as our sociopathic icons. The other is that of Jane Addams, who introduced the idea of the Chicago Woman and world citizen.

It was Chicago that brought forth Louis Sullivan, whom Frank Lloyd Wright referred to as “Lieber Meister.” Sullivan envisioned the skyscraper. It was here that he wanted to touch the heavens. Nor was it any accident that Sullivan corresponded with the elderly Walt Whitman, because they both dreamed of democratic vistas, where Chicago was the City of Man rather than the City of Things. Though Sullivan died broke and neglected, it is his memory that glows as he is recalled by those who followed Wright. 

What the nine-year-old boy felt about Chicago in 1921 is a bit more mellow and seared. He is aware of its carbuncles and warts, a place far from heaven, but it is his town, the only one he calls home.

Nelson Algren, Chicago’s bard, said it best: “Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real.”