Chicago used to be my kind of town. Born in the early '50s, I loved so much about the city from the time I was a tiny tot: Lake Michigan, the museums, the Art Institute, Riverview, Chinatown, Old Town, Chicago dogs (no, these are not a type of pet) - and so much more. It was The City That Works.
Today? The City of Broad Shoulders, of vibrancy and vitality and strength, now seems like a decaying corpse. Gang violence? Record murders? Deficits as far as the eye can see? Yeah; it's got 'em all. Today, the city I so loved is now Gangsterville.
Chicago was the only U.S. city to break 500 murders last year, and that is a spike — but a spike only over the past few years. Chicago has seen these waves before: In 2008 the city saw 516 murders, and it had nearly 1,000 in 1974, the year David Barksdale’s past finally caught up with him and he died of kidney failure resulting from a gunshot wound suffered years before. Things have been worse in the past, but there is a sense that Chicago is moving in the wrong direction. New York City had nearly 2,000 murders in 1974, and more than 2,000 the year before. But those numbers are unthinkable today: New York City finally got control of itself, which is a big part of the reason why Rudy Giuliani, a thrice-married recreationally cross-dressing pro-choice big-city liberal, was taken seriously as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Rahm Emanuel would need a miracle worthy of his surname to follow a similar path, to get Freckles to give up commerce and to get Mr. Butt to regard him as something other than a municipal joke. Chicago may have torn down the projects, but building the city is a different thing altogether.
As a moody teenager, I would drive to the lake at midnight and walk the beach. In the waves and the wind I looked for solace and answers - at least usually finding the former. Then - it was my kind of town.