It’s been 5 months since I left Chicago . . . almost to the day. And here I am, basking in the overcast, slightly chilly, leaf lined streets of Rogers Park and thinking how nice it is to see Fall. Real life fall. It does exist. I mean, sitting in my air conditioner-less apartment in my tighty whities and a wife beater, sticking to my couch as I watch face-lifted news anchors tell me it’s going to be another 95+ degree day is great and all . . . BUT FALL!!!
This’ll sound cheesy, but damn it, let me be cheesy for once, readers. See, I haven’t necessarily pined for Chicago since I left. However, when you’re sitting on the Orange Line from Midway, listening to music and the song I Will Wait comes on, it’s really hard not to feel nostalgic. I mean, when you think of the lyrics, “I will wait for you,” coming form a city as opposed to a woman, then the song take on new meaning. Like some dope from some sappy Rom-Com, I’m looking out the window as I’m visually reintroduced to Chicago, and I’m thinking, “Yeah, maybe one day I will return. This city will always be here and it WILL wait for me if need be.”
Listen, skeptics! Let me have my yearly cheese moment, okay? . . . because, here comes the kicker . . .
It doesn’t take long to be in Chicago for old habits to come back. Mostly old habitual thoughts. Suddenly I’m doing the comparison game; what’s better between my home (Chicago) and my the place I live (Los Angeles). So, for all you potential Chicago ex-pats (or even people deciding to move to one or the other), here’s a little tally of where the two stand in comparison.
An important note: the point of this post isn’t to dissuade people from coming to Los Angeles. What it is meant to do is prepare you for the change. When I moved to New York City from Omaha, the culture shock was staggering. Omaha had all the points. Eventually, once I learned the tricks of that city, New York was fabulous. The same went for my move from New York to Chicago. Los Angeles is no different. Once you’re here, you adapt and conform and begin to really enjoy. It may take a year, but I think it’s well worth it.
1) MOTOR VEHICLES
CHICAGO drivers are pure Ass Holes. See, I lived in New York and the world seems to think that the worst, most mean-spirited drivers are live there. No, they are in Chicago. Here’s my theory. In New York, there’s not enough room between stop light for a vehicle to gain enough speed to be an out of control driver. In Chicago, there’s a little more space between lights and stop signs, so cars can gain speed and really be dangerous. As well, there’s this complete lack of regard for human life.
There’s the ol’ Chicago cut in; that’s when a driver on the interstate just cuts right in between you and the car in front of you with little to no space or warning. There’s also the classic “Left Hand Turn Obstruction.” Only in Chicago will you see some jerk just pull out and block oncoming traffic for minutes so he can make a left hand turn. And don’t get me started on the way Chicago drivers treat pedestrians and cyclists . . . well, don;t get me started here. I’ll get to that later
LOS ANGELES is a place where you’d think the drivers are mature, savvy and just flawless in their execution of basic motor vehicle technique. Well, you’d be wrong. Dead wrong. Where Chicago is the land of jerks, Los Angeles is the land of good old-fashioned DUMB drivers. Chicago drivers know the awful atrocities they perpetrate on the road every day. Los Angeles drivers? I don’t know if they really know they are in cars. They’re slow, absent-minded and may very well have a case of short-term amnesia . . . “Oh, wait, what’s this thing in front of me? A steering wheel? Thaaaaat’s right. I’m driving.”
A right hand turn to an Angeleno is like freaking brain surgery. A left hand turn? I guess you need a doctorate from the DMV to do those because no one seems to get the concept that a car can actually “accelerate” through an intersection. Even in crosswalks it’s aggravating. Chicagoans? They look for the car sized gap between pedestrians so they can turn. Angelenos? If there’s even ONE person crossing, that car is sure to wait. Oh, yeah, and those dashed lines on the street . . . those are called lanes. This isn’t kindergarten people. You’re not supposed follow the line, you’re supposed to be between them
POINT — TIE. While CHICAGO motorists may drive like pricks, at least you know you’re going to get where you’re going faster than in LA. However, in LOS ANGELES, at least you know that when you get behind the wheel, you’re aren’t entering a demolition derby.
CHICAGO is a city built for cyclists. It is SO easy to ride from the North Side to The South Side in under 35 minutes. I would ride from Andersonville to the South Loop in about 30 minutes. That’s a 10 mile bile ride. As well, Chicago cyclists, for the most part, are really savvy. If a city gives it’s cyclists the infrastructure to use a bike as a commuter tool, then the individuals who ride will become more savvy. Plus, most cyclists in Chicago know the rules: don’t ride side by side on streets. Wear a helmet. Don’t weave in and out of lanes like a drunk donkey.
See, the great thing about the cycling community in Chicago is that it is incredibly diverse. However, the problem with Chicago cycling isn’t the cyclists. It’s the motorists. If you’re a cyclist in Chicago, drivers hate you. If only for the fact that there are little rules you can break and get away with that they can’t. That really irks them. So you constantly play a game of cat and mouse with cars.
LOS ANGELES is not a city built for cycling. There are bike lanes, but not many. Even their storm grates are designed perfectly for a bicycle tire to fit in the slots . . . so someone like me can be speeding down a hill at 20mph and flip over because my tire got stuck in the grate. Diversity is rare. The cyclists themselves are mainly hipsters. It’s just a weird subculture that most people frown upon. And most of that subculture treats cycling like fashion statement. There’s actually a movement in LA that encourages cyclists to NOT wear helmets. Why? Because they think if a person sees you wearing a helmet, they intrinsically relate the activity with danger and won’t participate . . . There are so many logic flaws in that thinking that I think UCLA is holding a special PhD class in Philosophy and Logic to study it.
However, Los Angeles drivers are the exact opposite of Chicago drivers. They steer as far from you as possible, usually giving you a wide berth — much wider than necessary. I think, for motorists, spotting a cyclist in LA is like finding a 100 dollar bill on the street. When you see it, you instantly think someone is taping you and you just walk around it, trying not to get caught.
POINT — CHICAGO. It’s just better equipped to handle cyclists. However, I give LOS ANGELES a half point for 1) trying to promote cycling and 2) for the drivers being respectful.
3) PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Listen, do I really have to get into detail here?
Fine. Once, in LOS ANGELES, I took a bus from Silverlake to Santa Monica. It took an hour and 45 minutes. It was hot. No one was happy. Everyone was squished together and the driver had a lead foot on the brakes.
In CHICAGO, you can pretty much get anywhere easily by public transport. Sure, it’s not perfect, sometimes it’s late and slow, but most of the time it’s great
POINT: CHICAGO. Nuff said.
Tonight, I was reminded instantly why I despise CHICAGO taxis. Taxi drivers in Chicago are a mixture of anger, desperation and pathological tendencies towards homicide. As my wife and I were walking from the train to my Cousin’s apartment in Rogers Park, a cab pulled up slowly beside us, like some demented stalker, and honked at us. Was my hand in the air? No. Was Megan’s hand in the air? NO. Were we looking around like some dumbfounded tourists? NOOOOOO! It’s 2012, people. I think the WORLD knows how to flag down a cab. We’ve seen enough movies to make that clear. I don’t need a cab acting like a scorned ex-lover every time I’m walking down a side walk.
On top of that, the idea of mean Chicago drivers is MULTIPLIED by a factor of 20 when it comes to cabbies. They are rude, dangerous drivers who put everyone’s lives at risk; pedestrians, cyclists and other motorists. They weave in and out of traffic like crazed maniacs, ride the center lines on streets like trapeze artists and treat anything that moves like it’s threatened their mothers with gruesome death. I once had a friend try to defend this behavior with the excuse, “They’re sitting all day.” Really? That gives them license to be killers? Accountants sit at a desk all day. You don’t see them knocking over secretaries as they pass their cubicles.
Riding a cab in Chicago is no different than riding an old wooden roller coaster from the turn of the century. They should come with a neck braces. Let me make this simple — I hate Chicago cabs. A necessary evil, but still evil they are.
In LOS ANGELES, you’re lucky if you even spot a cab on the street. Hailing one is like seeing Big Foot; no one will believe that you did. However, if you call for a cab, they will pick you up promptly. The drivers will drive fast but safe. The cabbie will more than likely be very polite, not hassle you when you want to pay with a card (CHICAGO cabbie: “No! You should have told me you were paying with card when you got in. Cash only!”) and the damn interior won’t smell like patchouli.
1 POINT: LOS ANGELES. There is nothing positive about cabs in Chicago other than you will eventually need one.
CHICAGO . . . see #3 above. Chicago’s compact size and public transport make getting a beer or hanging with friends very easy. I have so many great friends in Chicago because it was so easy to casually meet up for an hour or two. That and the fact that driving is usually the last option. Get a call on at 7pm on a Friday for a get together at 8? Just jump on the bus and go. It’s as simple as that.
LOS ANGELES, on the other hand, is HUGE!! You can not imagine how big it is. Chicagoland itself is minuscule in comparison to the greater Los Angeles area. You travel an hour in your car in Chicago, you will reach farmland. You travel an hour in your car in Los Angeles, you will reach Los Angeles. It’s as simple as that. And because of that, you’re socializing becomes a question of, “Do I want to travel that far?” Many times it’s a solid “no.”
Megan and I have two very good friends who moved out here a few months after we did. We rarely see them. They live in West Hollywood and we live in Los Feliz — Hollywood the only barrier between us. I’ve seen them 3 times. In essence, socializing in LA takes effort. Lots and lots of effort. If you’re a drinker, it becomes near impossible. Where in Chicago, you have the train to get you and your drunk spouse home, in LA, one of you will have to party sans drink. That decision alone can prevent an outing.
1 POINT — CHICAGO: It’s just so easy to see all your pals. Socializing in LA is like planning a European vacation.