Chicago is the half-ignored house plant the owner waters when they can...that they've put too close to the window, overexposing some leaves to the harsh sun. While maintaing an extensive root system, and sturdy stem, once vibrant and healthy branches have turned brown and begun to severely sag. The plant is not dead, quite the opposite, new shoots sprout out and away from the harsh rays, sucking up nutrients and water once directed towards their older counterparts. It's a city that encompasses the totality of life, and nature, in all it's cycles. That's what so real and raw about it. Try you're best, but you can not ignore the mold and decay, even from your air conditioned SUV as you pass over the I-90 Expressway.
It would take years, maybe the better part of a lifetime, to thoroughly dissect the complexities of Chicago. I won't try. Those residents committed to the city, and the greater metropolitan area, offered some insights and opinions over my 8 days in the city, each one differing from the previous in its specificity. Speaking to the current state of Chicago, the connecting theme to no surprise of many Americans is the massive disparity between classes and the shrinking industry in the area. It largely felt like an accepted reality. Twenty to thirty somethings, ditch cars for bikes to save money while living in the fun and quirky gentrified areas to the north and west. They're happy enough, for now, sipping Moscow Mules and snacking on $4 tacos. More established professionals with families, shuttle in and out of downtown clogging the highways that lead to their suburban homes. It's "not safe" when the sun's down, and retailers close up shop shortly after the professionals head home. The rest, well, they inhabit the grey and brown withered leaves and branches. Black and Hispanic alike. They walk or ride busses through rows of gated windows and doors, bumping their way along through potholed streets, and weeds. For most of them, it's all they've known.