Big City, Big Game


I picked up a book this weekend and only had time to read the first paragraph:

“Paris is a big city, in the sense that London and New York are big cities and that Rome is a village, Los Angeles a collection of villages and Zürich a backwater.” (The Flaneur,  Edmund White, page 1).  

As I was reading this, I was awaiting a valet to bring my car, releasing it from the ridiculously expensive parking facility at the hotel where I had been staying.   I looked up at the buildings overhead as the “L” rattled by and wondered where Chicago fits into that schema — a big city or a collection of villages?  Where does any city fit, really? It’s all a matter of perspective.

Years ago I had a colleague remark that she liked living in Chicago over New York because Chicago was more “livable”.   “It has everything New York has, but it’s on a human scale”, she claimed.  “You can walk the sidewalks and see the sky and smell the lake.”   Having spent lots of time in NYC, I can attest that you can walk the sidewalks there too, see the sky and smell the water as the tides roll in and out.  Sometimes you don’t want to smell that, but you can. I lived in London for a short while a long time ago, and I’ve visited LA and Rome. Indianapolis, where I live, often thought of as a “small town”, is actually ranked as the 13th largest city in the US (Jacksonville, with a mere 1655 more people recently moved ahead of us in this ranking by the Census Bureau).   Each of these cities are different, each big — and parochial — in their own ways.

Chicago, though it self-deprecatingly refers to itself as the Second City (it’s actually ranked 3rd — sorry Windy City), is a big city, one that doesn’t take a backseat to any other, whether in amenities, or attitude.  I’m not sure that it matters how you set the scale; it still is big.

Chicago

Big City Skyline

Big is the theme for this Ailsa’s Travel Theme this week.  We didn’t think of this weekend as a really big weekend, but we did have a medium-sized adventure planned:  a quick drive to Chicago to see a ballgame and then to see an art exhibit.   We love to mix highbrow and lowbrow!   Or something like that.

It isn’t a difficult drive to Chicago from where I live, at least not until you hit the Dan Ryan.  There are signs that read “xx minutes to Circle” along the Dan Ryan.  I wouldn’t know how to hack a sign board nor am I the kind of risk taker that would if I did, but I am amused thinking that the sign should be amended to read:  “xx minutes until you leave this Circle of Hell.” Sometimes to me it seems that Chicago does stalled highway traffic like nobody else!

Dan Ryan, Chicago, Traffic,

Big Traffic Jam

Eventually, though, we arrived at our destination.  It isn’t the biggest ball park — far from it — but that’s part of Wrigley’s charm:

Chicago

Wrigley

It was a beautiful afternoon for a ball game.  Several years ago, I was having dinner with a Frenchman.   “I zee these game on the satellite.  Bazeball?  It haz no rules, yes?”   Ah, baseball!  It has rules — and lots of stats, too, but I think its quintessential charm is that its allure cannot be fully explained to one who has not experienced it firsthand.  There is nothing like spending an afternoon on a warm summer day, blue skies above with only a few clouds, watching a ball game languidly wend through nine innings.

Wrigley Field, Chicago

The One and Only Wrigley Field

Of course, sitting there enjoying the game, the sunshine, and perhaps some liquid refreshment, can make one tired.   That is why the 7th inning stretch is so critical.  A few years ago, while on a business trip, I was given two tickets to a Cubs game at the last-minute.   Accompanying me on this trip was one of my employees who had just become an US citizen.   She was excited to go as she had never seen a baseball game; we had no choice but to ditch the office early.  She knew that I was not your typical American Sports Enthusiast and she wasn’t sure that I was correct when I told her that the scores were “runs“, not “points” and that the game divisions were “innings“, not “quarters“.   I tried to explain the game to her as best I could.  But, I had neglected to tell her about the 7th inning stretch.

She was bewildered when the crowd suddenly stood in unison.  “Everybody stands now” I said, waving her to her feet.

For the rest of the game?” she asked skeptically.

No.  Just to sing the song! And to stretch!“.   The band started playing…

Take Me Out to The BallGame ….  

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks...

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks…

“Is this like the National Anthem of Baseball?” she asked.

It is indeed like that.

As I write this I wonder:  maybe one of the special charms of baseball is that it only seems big but isn’t really at all.  Sure, it’s big business; just look at the price of the tickets and concessions.  Look at the picture of the stadium above.  See those seats high above the outfield?  Those are not inside Wrigley Field.  They are on top of buildings across the street from the field.  Tell me that isn’t about enterprising people making big money off of the game too.  The hot dogs, sodas, cotton candy and beers are all big too.   Fans track their favorite teams and players.   We make a few minutes, more than two-thirds of the way through the game, into a big deal where everyone sings a silly song, waves their arms, and laughs.  And yet, it isn’t about being big and oversized.  It’s about taking time from our big, busy lives to relax and watch a leisurely game.

It was a fun afternoon in an anti-big sort of way.

And the Cubs beat the Cards.   Now, that is a big deal!

What’s your idea of BIG?  Join Ailsa’s Travel Theme and let us know.  Be sure to leave a link at Where’s My Backpack?

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4 responses to “Big City, Big Game

  1. Pingback: Travel Theme : Big | Chronicles of a Public Transit User

  2. What a beautiful post! I am just catching up Anne. I would love to visit Chicago ! Thanks for the tour!

  3. Love the picture of the band. And the Wrigley Field sign. http://holley4734.wordpress.com/2013/08/19/travel-theme-big/

  4. Definitely a post depicting BIG… love it…