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Abiding by the rules of the common misconception, I claim my birthright as the most non-Chicago Chicagoan in the history of demographics.

Being uniquely market-conscious is my speciality.

I also still have club memberships for Circuit City and Blockbuster video and a 10-cent off coupon for A&P bananas. I shopped for socks at Kresge, for Pete's sake.

A marriage was inspired by - I'm not kidding - an eHarmony profile, and they kept sending sign-up solicitations after the divorce. The second bite of that marketing apple did not appeal to me.

So, clearly I stand on the precipice of cultural self-awareness. A claim that you might be culturally self-aware is the first sign that you are not. Let the evidence speak for itself.

Nonetheless, there is no dispute about my Non-Chicago Chicagoan credentials. This NC-C identity is the tradition of those who live in Chicago suburbs, exurbs, boroughs, villages, regional affiliates and various minimum-security prison municipalities, and then claim this proximity makes them Chicagoans.

Or that they live in "Chicagoland," a realm just as real as Oz.

As with many hideous misconceptions, this was started by the Chicago Tribune, specifically by owner Colonel Robert McCormick to snooker advertisers into thinking they were reaching the entire unified region simultaneously. As if it were a single area. The fib caught on with credulous civilians, too.

But "Chicagoland" is a totally Chicago variety of concocted idea, not the result of evolutionary social forces. It was designed to make a buck. It has.

I have lived in six of those suburbs (in nine different residences), always intending to be permanently situated, except for those three months under court order.

Based on my expertise, every suburb does feel it is sort of Chicago, but for different reasons. Many feel just as resolutely they are not Chicagoans and have no wish to be.

Here's the record of my non-denominational hajj - town by town, burg by burg. From Indiana headed West and then angling North.

VALPARAISO: Whitest place I've ever lived. No, wait. Missoula, Montana, was whiter.

Valpo has a college, nice downtown, pleasant Lutheran social environment. It's a Garrison Keillor before-his-troubles sort of place. Everybody there with money has inherited it or escaped from Chicago. In Valparaiso, "escaped from Chicago" means "escaped from Black people."

In both Valparaiso and Missoula, the racial diversity on the college football and basketball teams was enough to materially change the population ratios in the town.The KKK once tried to buy Valparaiso University, but the Lutherans got there first.

Chicago might consider Valpo a Chicagoland suburb, but Valpo does not. Chicago is a foreign country like Lithuania or Bulgaria we sometimes visited.

Best city parks I ever saw, and was host to great county fair.

MERRILLVILLE: Essentially created out of highway crossroads at I-65 and U.S. 30 to give white people in Gary a place to which to escape Mayor Richard Hatcher and Black people. They did.

Merrillvillians pretend to outsiders that's not true. But it is.

The newspaper where I worked and home where I lived were both near the intersection. It was like living in a disorganized but really busy warehouse.

But Merrillville has no visible downtown, uptown or midtown. It's a series of strip malls, highway-hugging retailers and car dealerships with a North-South dividing line - 59th Street - between it and Gary. Like the Mason-Dixon Line, this line is invisible but significant.

Andrean Catholic High School was built in Merrillville, just south of 59th Street. The school's sports teams are the "59ers," just in case you missed the symbolic point.

North of that line is where much of Merrillville used to live.

Merrillvillians use the South Shore Railroad to reach Chicago jobs. That's all they really like about Chicago. They don't care who the mayor of Chicago is, or who the governor of Illinois is. Really. They're not angry at Chicago. They just don't care.

The residents do not lust to someday be Chicagoan. They visit if there's a good reason. That's all.

That's because Merrillville is the defacto capital of steel mill-sired "Da Region." It does not care about anything West of the state line. It's a unique world that barely cares about Indiana politics, especially Gary.

But if you pressed the point, the Ville considers itself superior in every way to Chicago, except for pro sports.

The city has a distinct mood. It has two Serbian Orthodox parishes and maintains an old-time Euro-ethnic vibe from one end of the U.S. 30 boundary to the other.

Merrillville is not unique in one sense.

Almost all Northwest Indiana municipalities and their populations dislike Chicago. They especially dislike that Chicago somehow presumes their fealty without any valid reason or permission.

All they know about Chicago they see on Chicago television news.

But it's not just Chicagoans they dislike. Merrillvillians particularly resent Valparaiso, almost as much as they dislike Chicago. Valpo dislikes both places and, in fact, almost everywhere else that is not Valparaiso.

EVANSTON: First, a telling anecdote. City council once held a public debate on the city's moral duty to provide Lake Michigan boat ramps for people from Morton Grove. Moral duty. They had witnesses. It was so precious.

Evanston takes itself very seriously.

City does have fabulous midsized-city downtown. But Evanston is largely what it is, both good and ill, because of Northwestern University.

The school brings culture, big-time college sports (relatively speaking) and also soaks up 40 percent of the available tax base without much compensation, at least in money.

Lived there during my brief "money years" in a grand, two-story stone Edwardian home - that was wonderful - but I lost my beloved golden retriever Sophie. That was awful.

Evanston should be, though does not seem to be, a fabulously rich town. It also remains one of the most residentially segregated cities in Illinois (a residual from the old red-line, racial zoning days). The segregation now seems to be enforced by economics. The city has too many homes that people of normal means could never own.

There are deep, unbridgeable lines between haves and have-nots in Evanston.

Yes, they believe they are Chicagoans, separated at the invisible boundary only by Howard Street asphalt.

But when no outsiders are listening, Evanstonians generally believe they are superior in every meaningful category to everyone. Maybe they are.

WILMETTE: Spent a year house-sitting for a friend. It was a million-dollar house in a million-dollar neighborhood. Typical Wilmette demographic. Have seldom spent a more miserable year in my life.

No divide between haves and have-nots there. There are no have-nots.

Wilmettians know that their servants cannot afford to live in the town where they work.

They - like Winnetkans, Lake Foresters, Highland Parkers, Kenilworthians and Lake Bluffers - pay for large swatches of Chicago's high-end arts. New Trier, the high school of record, is soaked with impossibly toxic levels of nuclear smugness.

This is just me. But the North Shore sort of creeps me out. Not freak; just creep. It's not only too much money constricted in too few hands. It's the presumption of privileged authority that doesn't even need to be stated. What? Me privileged?

WHEELING: If you don't like the sound of private jets on the landing glide path 500 feet over your head, Wheeling won't be for you. It's central feature is the theoretically named Chicago Executive Airport which, lIke almost all aspects of being verifiably Chicagoan, it's not.

But in one-year-plus living there, I never heard anyone call it Chicago Executive Airport. That's silly. It's Palwaukee Municipal Airport, like Comiskey is still Comiskey even if the structure isn't. The airport's 412 acres at the intersection of PAL-atine Road and Mil-WAUKEE road marks the village's dominant feature.

In one year, 77,000 planes by official count flew right over my home. That's 218.75 a day, every day, but who's counting? The noise whiners who live near O'Hare can kiss my grits.

Another city without much center. Ethnically diverse. Generally nice folks who work hard for the money. The most unpretentious sort-of-but-not-quite North Shore village. Despite the jets, I liked it.

If you live there for 10 years, sooner or later a private jet carrying millionaires will crash into a condo pool near you.

But villagers evince no hint of North Shore snootiness. If one asked the average Wheelingtonian if he or she considered themselves a Chicagoan, they would answer: Where?

GLENVIEW: Never lived there, but was lured there under false pretenses once to be fired by someone from Chicagoland. So it counts.

Glenviewites think they are part of the North Shore and thus are Chicagoans. They aren't either.

Glenview is North Shore and Chicagoan only if Peoria is.

LAKE VILLA: Tucked against the state's northern boundary with Wisconsin, this has been my home for a decade.

I could tell more Chicagoans they could transport themselves the 50 miles from Chicago on the Metra. But if I tell them about the charming lakeside serenity, they might come and despoil the contemplative atmosphere.

So, we can't have that.

The only exception to the charm is continuous line of EMT, fire, police and paramedics screaming south down the highway because this corner of Lake County (Lake Villa, Antioch, Lindenhurst) has no hospitals.

So every medical emergency, unresolved heat rash and bruised shin produces roaring highway sirens past my front door headed south for Libertyville.

On the other hand, it's an hour closer to Miller Park in Milwaukee than it is to Wrigley Field. Same variety of National League teams, just little traffic. No Ricketts family, either.

Happy here for a decade, which is pushing the immobility world record for me. So I must really like the place. As for intrusions by Lake Villa's official civic plans and initiatives, there are none that I can see. This place moves like Easter Island stone statuary.

Except for an occasional summer parade, Lake Villa practiced social distancing even before there was a pandemic. The official Census claims the village has 8,626 residents spread over seven square miles, but I have never seen more than 200 humans in one place.

There is a sign that points to the "business district" 1,000 feet off the main road, otherwise you would not know that's what it was.

You cannot tell you actually are in the business district, even when you are there.

How not-Chicagoan and non-Chicagoland is Lake Villa? There are actual Packers fans here. They're out in public and walk around freely.

This litany accumulates to describe 20 or so years hereabouts in my personal Chicagoland, which might seems like a long time for you, but not for me. The compendium does not include 22 homes in six other states previously - Florida (twice), Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Wisconsin and Montana.

It does not even include the antebellum Kentucky mansion where I spent most of my childhood summers. I never surrendered my love for that old house.

I've been busy.

Few of those I met were any version of Chicagoan, but almost all the inhabitants thought they and their hometowns were unique, special and clearly better than everywhere else.

In some ways they all were right. And also wrong.

As for me, when I left each outpost on my unofficial French Foreign Legion tour of America, it was without law enforcement urgings. If you don't include that unpleasantness in Montana.

I once asked a sweet, elderly school teacher friend in Montana what she thought about Californians moving into Montana and raising property prices. "Gut-shoot 'em at the border," she said without a smile.

She was sort of a Chicagoan.


See also:

* Rutter: What Is A Chicagoan Anyway?

* McClelland: Actual Crank Calls To Misleadingly Named Suburbs.


Recently by David Rutter:

* Kris Bryant's Future Bar Trick.

* Mansplaining To A Millionaire.

* Status Check: Chicago Sports.

* The Week In WTF Redux: Blago Is Back Edition.

* What Is A Chicagoan Anyway?

* Glenn Beck's Turn In The Volcano.

* Only Science Will Bring Back Sports.

* I Loathe The Lockdown Protestors.

* Reopening Books.

* A Return To Abnormalcy.

* I'm Having A Down Day Emotionally. Here's Why.

* So Long, Jerry.

* A Special "Trump's Bible" Edition Of WTF.

* 5 Things An Angry Old White Man Wants To Say.

* An ANTIFA American Hero.

* The Fonz Lives And Franco Is Dead: News You Can't Use.

* Gone With The Wind: My Lost Cause.

* How To (Pretend To) Negotiate A Labor Deal.

* The Mystery Of Mitch's Missing Motivation.


David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. You can also check him out at his Theeditor50's blog. He welcomes your comments.


Posted on June 25, 2020

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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