Chicago is nothing if not a land of nicknames. The Windy City, Second City, and Chi-Town are some of the most common local monikers, and a Wikipedia search for "Chicago nicknames" even turned up "Paris on the Prairie," which was used in a 1909 city planning document. I always knew I liked this place. Growing up in nearby Minnesota, the nation's third-largest city was a frequent destination for trips with friends and family. Now I'm back, and realizing already that Chicago is going to be a tough town to have to leave.
I arrived here yesterday evening to attend a blogging conference (yes, they have those) and promptly set out to explore a bit on foot. One of the first things that struck me was how tall the buildings were. DC is a relatively small town that doesn't have any skyscrapers. Zero, ziltch, not even a single big, ugly disastrous one like Paris has. Walking around downtown Chicago reminded me how much I love the feeling of being in a city that makes you feel small. In an odd way, it makes everything seem heightened, more exciting, even sexier. What's more, Chicago's buildings are a visually striking mix of the old and the new, where some towers' modern glass façades reflect their stone counterparts who seem to recall the age of the great American industrialists.
Nicknames and skyscrapers aside, Chicago has something extra that makes me love it. Only here, right in the middle of flyover land, do you get all the big city excitement without any of the usually accompanying big city pretension. Chicago is relaxed, it's citizens are Midwest friendly, and you can simply come as you are. It might sound strange, but this city actually feels content. It knows it's not a coastal powerhouse (unless you count the fact that it's on one of the Great Lakes), and it couldn't care less. Let New York and Los Angeles get all the international fame and domestic glory! Chicagoland is happy right where it is, and so am I.