The real Chicago isn't so easy to keep up with. It's constantly reinventing itself. Jumpy. Agitated. Impatient. It's as if the place is trembling. Move aside. Don't linger. And if you're going to dawdle, get out of the way. But what any Chicagoan will also tell you is that the past is very much present. It doesn't go away. It shouldn't. In fact, that's Chicago's lure and its beauty: its ability to take what was and figure out what could be.
Chicago has given America social investing and the stories of Stuart Dybek and Aleksander Hemon. It has been greening itself since long before it became trendy, and it has been dancing, too -- this is the home of house music, Wilco, and Lupe Fiasco. Here, in the birthplace of the American skyscraper, Santiago Calatrava is redefining the form with his Spire, while at the Art Institute, Renzo Piano is building a $300 million addition. The economy is growing faster than New York's or L.A.'s. And one of Chicago's own, who arrived in the 1980s and, in the tradition of the great rabble-rouser Saul Alinsky, took a job community organizing, has made a shockingly viable run for president, despite everyone telling him he was too inexperienced. Early in his campaign, Barack Obama told supporters, "I try to explain to people, I may be skinny but I'm tough. I'm from Chicago."
I agree, it's the energy of the place that really makes Chicago different. You come back afraid that you missed something while you were away.