In last Saturday’s Toronto Star, Karen von Hahn wrote a piece suggesting—no, stating—that not only does Chicago sit “smack dab in the middle of the North American continent” (by the way, it doesn’t), but that its music, architecture, shopping, dining, general amusements, and occasional citizenry are superior to Toronto’s.
Oh why bother I say…
I’m just so (yawn, yawn) tired of the endless comparing ourselves with anyone; it’s a bad, silly, and negative thing to do. And serves zip purpose. Except of course to encourage people to take sides and engage in conversation, which is always divine. So, okay, well done and thank you, Ms. von Hahn, for that, for igniting some small debate at this end.
My response (which ran in yesterday’s paper—for some reason without my final comments re Winnipeg) is as follows:
Re Karen von Hahn’s “Chicago wins style smackdown”— Sat., Oct. 9th/2010
Sigh. Not again with the comparing. This is so tiresome, and ultimately pointless. Fine, fine, Chicago has a brilliant waterfront and a few things Toronto doesn’t have. So? Do we really want to be like Chicago? Are we meant to come back from every little sojourn bleating and mewling that Pisa has a tower that leans…why doesn’t ours? And why aren’t we like Stockholm or Reno or Santiago? Why can’t we have Ayres Rock?? Seriously, do we really care that there’s no Barney’s on Bloor? Is that how low we’ve sunk that we define our style by some other city’s retail spaces?
In any case, if we must make lists, may I suggest the article missed a few key things. Like beaches, parks, the islands—the wisest minds may not have been at the wheel when configuring the waterfront, but we do have some spectacular green spaces right in the middle of our city. And true, we don’t have ‘Chicago blues’ but neither does Portland or Berlin. We do, however, have Caribana, the Pride Parade, the Toronto International Film Festival, to name but an easy three.
As for the Shedd Aquarium ‘equivalent’ Ms. von Hahn says “we’re still waiting for…” —we are? I’m not waiting. Is anyone waiting for this? Frankly I’m very proud we don’t have an upscale Marineland in our midst. This is style?
Ms. von Hahn says Chicago has Oprah and Obama. Yes but we had/always will have Jane Jacobs. Now there’s style for you. And she chose to live here. Imagine that. Especially when she could so easily have returned to the States, moved to, oh, I don’t know… Chicago maybe.
Ms. von Hahn suggests these comparisons matter because great cities attract great leaders, or vice versa. The implication being, I guess, that Chicago’s had some good management in the form of a “mayor with a vision for positive and stylistic changes, and the power to make it happen”. Maybe so, but not until they clean up the mess that is Chicago’s west side or the south side’s Englewood, will I covet what they’ve got.
And probably not even then because everything’s a package—the good, the bad—and I’ll take Toronto’s good along with some of its bad—including an opera house that lacks a piazza—anytime.
Finally, and if nothing else I’ve said changes your perspective one iota, please, please, Ms. von Hahn, get this straight: Chicago is NOT the centre of North America. That distinction—you will find if you only press google—is Winnipeg’s.