Chicago Gondolas; or, Sure: Why Not?


Pictured: Gondolas! Also Trump Tower. 


After the apocalypse of the last post, I’d still like to come out as being firmly in favor of the weird and kind of cool Chicago Gondola Plan. What I like is that it firmly reimagines Chicago as what it originally was: a river town, built from an impossible idea of dredging a narrow and shallow and sand-chocked river to ford a muddy expanse of swamp in order to make it, eventually, to the Mississippi. It was audacious and ridiculous and it worked. We’ve more or less forgotten that this was a river town, that it was built due to water, due to being at the perfect spot where the Great Lakes basin ends, and the continent shifts imperceptibly toward the Mississippi Basin. It’s that slight hinge, that tectonic blip, that has created the life of the city, and the destiny of million.

So focusing on the river, as the great people at Friends of the Chicago River* do, is an exciting development. And while I don’t quite see the connection between gondolas and Chicago, and while I don’t think they will be “iconic” in the way the Eiffel Tower is (despite the claims of the people proposing the plan), I think it is cool, and will bring even more people to the city.


Pictured: Gondolas! I think this can offer awesome views of the lakefront, the skyline, and the parks. 


What I especially like is that the plan is to go south along the river, to Chinatown and beyond. The area there has seen a bit of an uptick, as we move to clean the river and promote more tourism. Showing people that you can safely go sotuh of Madison is a good way to expand what Chicago tourism means. It won’t solve all the problems, but getting people to conceive of Chicago as more than Michigan Avenue and Wrigley Field is a great start.

(Also, while I love love love the idea of projecting opera on the back of the Civic so people can float up and watch it, I think they are overestimating the general appetite for opera.)


Pictured: perhaps an unrealistic expectation of public enthusiasm for opera. 

*Not to be confused with the ruinous petty-tyrant pecksniffs of the Friends of the Park, who blocked a museum to save parking lots. I’m so angry about this I can’t quite breathe.


New York Times Chicago Survey: A Broken and Bitter, but Better City


At one point, people were leaving the Loop


On Friday, the New York Times published a survey showing Chicago to be a fiercely divided and unmoored city, unsure of itself and seemingly faltering toward some kind of calamity. It’s not hard to see why: unearthly violence has torn apart huge swaths of the city, while other areas go unharmed. Outlandish, Syrian-like police brutality, extrajudicial black sites,  and of course murder covered up at the highest levels all add up to simmering racial resentment.

In addition to this, basic institutions seem to be crumbling. The CPS has been battling much-loathed Mayor Rahm Emmanual, in what seems to be an actual liberal revolt against an entrenched system (Chicago has always been Democratic, but only the most blinkered partisans would ever say it has been an actual liberal city in any real sense). Governor Rauner is trying to starve out any union activism by destroying the schools. Hell, we can even look over at the chaos in Brazil and reflect that a large number of people thought that was a better place for the Olympics than Chicago. It’s not a great feeling.

So then why are things better? The shoots of hope come from the actual survey.

Read more on this mind-blowing bit of counter-intuition, especially if you are a hiring manager at Slate…

Continue reading