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Culture Shock: What My Buffalo-to-Chicago Move was Originally Like

Culture Shock: What My Buffalo-to-Chicago Move was Originally Like

I moved to Chicago years ago, and in many ways it became more a home to me than Buffalo ever was. Now, since I’m attempting another inter-city move in a month, here is a list of things I noticed upon moving from Buffalo to Chicago that I never quite adjusted to:

Pizza and Wings don’t go Together
It’s not fair to expect every city on the planet to weave chicken wings into the culture like Buffalo has, but growing up in Buffalo, it does seem fair to expect wings to be the tasty accompaniment to a handful of particular dishes. Namely, pizza. In Buffalo, it’s ubiquitous to pick up the phone, speed-dial your favorite pizzeria, and say you want a large pepperoni and a double hot wings. They know the request because you’re a regular customer and they’ve heard slight variations on the same order a million times in the past. We take the combination for granted so much that wherever we go, we expect our pizza with a side of wings and let our hosts know what terrible people they are if they forget the wings. When I arrived in Chicago and made friends who ordered pizza, though, it was a short flight to my realization that people there didn’t feel like the extra grease with chicken meat on the side was an essential side dish. Hell, even that’s overstating their importance – Chicagoans went about their pizza business like the pizza/wings combination didn’t exist. Fortunately, Chicago is so good at pizza that you won’t care after the initial shock wears off.

The Street Grid Makes Sense
Buffalo loves to advertise its status as America’s Best-Planned City. No less an authority than Frederick Law Olmsted said Buffalo was the best-planned city in the world, and Buffalo was planned in a radial pattern, which is extremely rare in the United States. I guess it would make sense that Olmsted and other old-school architects would think that, though; they didn’t live long enough to witness abominations like the HSBC Tower, Main Place Mall, the Buffalo Convention Center, and all those other buildings which wipe out the meticulously planned radial design. The Convention Center and Main Place Mall in particular are notorious for choking off parts of downtown which would otherwise be reached very easily from Buffalo City Hall if they weren’t sitting in the way. Compounding the architectural mistakes is a legion of one-way streets going in so many different directions that you would think the city had a deal with an oil company which would cause motorists to keep getting lost and having to buy more gas. Chicago’s layout only seemed confusing at first. Once someone explained the directional and numbering scheme to me, though, I never got truly lost again. Chicago’s blocks are blocks, and its streets mainly stick to one direction. True, some of them – like Clark Street – curve a little after awhile and slant, but generally, even with all the one-way streets – I guess some things are constant between cities – it was refreshingly easy to find my way around.

The directional system is very easy: Madison Street is the official north/south marker, while State Street marks east and west. The corner of Madison and State places you at 0/0 numerically, and numbers increase like normal in every direction. The further away from Madison and State you get, the higher the address number. Even-numbered addresses are on buildings on the north and west sides of their streets; and by a rigorous and time-consuming process of elimination, you’ve maybe concluded that south and east street sides have the odd addresses. One thing I find a little dumbfounding, though, is that State Street is the barrier between east and west. State Street gets cut off around Lincoln Park, and the east side ceases to exist.

The People Think Chicago has the Monopoly on the Word “Pop”
We get it: Using “pop” as our word for soda is a regional thing. We’re told that from birth. Chicago apparently missed the memo. If you’re from out of town, every use of “pop” as a way of referring to soda is accompanied by a wink, a smile, and the occasional elbow nudge as the Chicagoan who just used it explains to his guests that “pop” is the word they use for soda in Chicago. They seem to think they’re letting you in on the secret formula for Coca-Cola when they say it. Well, the thing about “pop” is that the region that uses it as a term for soda is fucking massive. In fact, according to The Huffington Post, a survey anyone can fill out on a site called popvssoda.com, and Discover Magazine among many other sources, “pop” is absolutely dominant along the entire northern coastline from the Pacific coast – including Alaska – to western New York, except for a small spot in Wisconsin along the Lake Michigan coast. It changes to “soda” around Rochester, New York. The point where “pop” stops being used going south varies, but it drifts as far down as Oklahoma and changes to “coke” in the deep south. “Soda” actually seems to be the minority word for soda. Back to point, though; there’s no need for Chicagoans to cling to their use of “pop” like it’s some special identifying mark or secret handshake because everybody fucking knows what it is.

Chicago is a Hate Group for Ketchup
When you move to Chicago – or, hell, even if you’re just passing through it – you’ll be forced to try one of those seven-topping hot dogs that are so popular there, possibly at gunpoint. Your first thought upon glancing the Chicago-style hot dog for the first time will probably be along the lines of “how the hell do I eat this thing?” You’re not going to shove the whole thing into your mouth to bite down, since there’s too much between the onions, relish, peppers, pickle, celery salt, mustard, and tomatoes. (And the dog itself is, of course, made of beef; not just beef, but Vienna beef, and placed on a poppy seed bun, because any other beef on any other bun will toss the universe out of whack.) Your second thought may be of ketchup, but Chicagoans will recoil in horror at that thought. Hatred of ketchup is something known to unite Cubs fans and White Sox fans. The city tries to bully people about this; some hot dog places don’t even have ketchup available. Others just have assholes at the service counter who insult you to your face for putting ketchup on hot dogs.

Ketchup is treated much the same way you would treat asbestos. The fact that these people drown their french fries in ketchup instead of eating them with salt and vinegar and that mustard is a legal form of torture never seems to bother them. Meanwhile, Buffalo introduced a type of dog called the Texas Red Hot to the planet. Unlike the dicks who vend in Chicago, no one in Buffalo cares what goes on your Texas Red Hot, and long as you’re getting the dogs themselves at a place that makes them halfway decently. There are many of them; Louie’s has its fans, but Ted’s is the consensus place to find a good hot dog in Buffalo.

The Football Fans are Idiots
You would expect to find a sizable number of mouth-breathers among a fanbase which made Mike Ditka, the NFL’s response to Donald Trump, into their patron saint. That’s a good summary of Bears fans. These are fans who bitch if their team committed to something other than outmoded run-first football and growl a lot about “Bear weather,” a make-believe home field advantage offered by Soldier Field’s location alongside Lake Michigan and the blustery winds swirling in. On one hand, you can’t blame Bears fans for looking at the team’s incredible successes on the ground: An amazing nine titles, including a Super Bowl victory in the 1985 season, and a running back roll call of transcendents like Bronko Nagurski, Red Grange, Gale Sayers, and the immortal Walter Payton as well as locally memorable runners like Neal Anderson, Matt Forte, Beattie Feathers, and Rick Casares. On the other hand, Bears fans all still seem to believe this style amounts to some insurmountable advantage. They’ll talk up Bear weather as if no other team in the NFL plays in the cold. I would remind fans that it gets pretty damn cold in Buffalo too, and Bears fans, bless their tiny dino brains, tried to argue with me about it. They’ll insist you can’t pass in a Chicago winter, even though a certain outdoor team which plays in even worse weather than Chicago has spent the past two decades showing the Bears differently. Yeah, three of those FOUR Super Bowls the Green Bay Packers have reeled in were all led by Hall of Fame quarterbacks, and that fourth title was guided by another quarterback who plays with the kind of form that leads quarterbacks to the Hall.

And about those titles: That one I mentioned from 1985 happens to be the most recent of them, and fans dwell on it like it’s the only thing that matters. Granted, from everything I’ve gathered about that 1985 team, they were quite memorable, but no other fanbase lives in its past like this. Even the Bills fans old enough to still sing shoulda coulda wouldas about those four Super Bowls set the glory years aside once the current season starts. Deadspin’s Why Your Team Sucks football previews listed Chicago’s sports loyalties a few years ago and placed the 1985 Bears over the current Bears. It was accurate.

Summer is the Real Bad Season
To paraphrase Douglas Adams, Chicagoans honk on mightily about the pleasures of summer, but if Chicagoans knew the first thing about summer, they would also be able to think of at least 3268 places to spend it, and that’s just on the same latitude. The thing about living in Buffalo is that we have the lake effect. Lake Erie might bury us on a regular basis, but come the summer, it becomes an air conditioner which prevents the heat and humidity from becoming unbearable and keeping the city relatively dry, but giving us enough rain for all kinds of gardens to sprout. The summer temperature average in Buffalo is in the low 80’s, and we get an average of three days a year where the temperature hits 90. The city just broke a streak of below-90 days in the last month which was two years long. Buffalo has never had a 100 degree day. Although Chicagoans love to play up their city’s winter weather reputation, that won’t intimidate anyone who spent a long time living in another cold weather area. The summers, though, are like saunas. If they didn’t hit the high 90’s often, it certainly felt like they did, and the humidity frequently got so high that the fish in Lake Michigan didn’t have any trouble making breaks from the lake into cleaner waters. A school of fish taking a pleasant Sunday swim along Lake Shore Drive is capable of holding up traffic and endangering bicyclists. Motorists probably don’t want to get the guts of a splattered Great Lakes trout splattered on their windshields, just because fish guts don’t seem like the kind of thing that would come out very easily if you tried to wash them out with windshield wiper fluid.

Chicago’s Toughness is a Charade
If you move from a smaller city to a major 21st-Century megalopolis like Chicago, it’s only natural to feel a little overwhelmed at first, especially if the megalopolis in question has a reputation for drawing and quartering people. After awhile, though, it will become clear that the only reason Chicago has such a hard reputation is because the local media and frat megadouchebros running around on the Near North Side of the city are the ones who are saying it. You know those guys: Every Dylan and Chad in Lincoln Park or Wrigleyville who was raised in Evanston or North Barrington and is working corporate for six figures because of Daddy’s marketing connections believing they’re suddenly hard because they’re loud, keep getting way too drunk at Cubs games, and bought every worthless piece of junk with Al Capone’s face on it.

I had lived in Chicago around a month when I figured out the city had nothing to show me on the toughness front, but one incident that happened after a few years sticks out to me: Combos – yes, the snack – had released a list of the 50 manliest cities in America, and Chicago was number 48. The only reason I know this is because the local media raised an uproar about it. Naturally, it was mentioned every other page in the following day’s Redeye, and I seem to recall something from the Sun-Times as well. I’m not sure which is worse here: The fact that Chicagoans took an innocuous list written as a promotion by a snack food corporation seriously, or that they were actually offended by it. I could only imagine the reaction if someone brought it up in Buffalo: “Hey, did you hear Buffalo was (some number) on the Combos list of manliest cities?” “The Combos what list now?”

As a close cousin, Chicago is also too under-equipped and prissy to pass itself off as a true winter city as well. It’s a city which has, more than once, run out of its snow removal budget. If there’s heavy snowfall, anyone who can’t dig themselves out will starve to death because their neighbors aren’t going to sweep in and take up the duty themselves. The highest snowfall I experienced during my residency in Chicago was around 15 inches, and it was enough to keep people off the streets for days. People barely went outside, and it was incredible to walk around days later and see how many people didn’t even shovel their front stairs.

That Infuriating Inferiority Complex with New York City
If your sole reason for moving to Chicago from anywhere in upstate New York is to escape New York City’s shadow, don’t. Every now and then there’s lip service to Chicago being the better city – which it is, except the people there don’t seem to believe that themselves. Tell a Chicago native you’re from New York City and watch them light up like they’ve noticed you’re Batman. Seeing a city which holds New York City up to the light – especially one like Chicago – is a slap in the face to someone who came from a place which was very clear about an ethos and attitude toward NYC which said “you want to live in NYC so bad, go fucking live there. Or shut the fuck up about it before we run your ass out of town on a rail.” What the inferiority complex tells everyone is that New York City – with its impossible price ranges for everything, its legions of unaccomplished intellectual nitwits who believe they’re entitled to respect only by virtue of living there, and its upper class which takes every opportunity to flaunt its wealth to the lower classes – is something to be aspired to. I have some mixed feelings about my hometown, but I do still have enough pride in it to say: Chicago, you want to live in NYC so bad, go fucking live there.

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The Ultimate Ranking of Sports Team Names, Part Seven: The Masterpieces

The Ultimate Ranking of Sports Team Names, Part Seven: The Masterpieces

Here we are! The final section. Not much for me to explain in this one; these are, quite simply, the very best of naming American major professional sports have to offer. Each one carries a certain amount of regionalism, decent imagery, strong branding, originality, memorability, strength, and balance.

20: New York Metropolitans, MLB
The major qualm I have with this name is the way it fuels into New York City’s egotism and raging sense of self-congratulatory intellectual supremacy. Come on, New York City, we know two of your so-called boroughs – Brooklyn and Queens – operate their infrastructures on a more independent basis than the others. After that, though, there’s really nothing to complain about when it comes to the official name of the New York Mets. Even feeding into the city’s blustering, New York City is still the largest city in the country, and it’s not even close. New York City has an almost unmatched array of people and activities to keep everyone interested. It represents the modern and open-minded, making it a true 21st Century metropolis, and whenever something new and world-changing comes along, you can bet New York City is always one of the first places it will hit, which means the city is constantly evolving. The Metropolitans are mainly known by their field name, the Mets, which not only makes them the cool rebel alternative to the Yankees, but gives them a cool parallel to the Jets and Nets – the rebel alternatives to the Giants and Knicks, respectively. The name Mets also honors two of New York City’s other great institutions – the Metropolitan Opera and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which are both also nicknamed the Met. Unknown to many, it’s also the name of an early baseball team from New York City which only lasted a few years in the 1800’s, which gives Mets a sense of preserved history as well.

19: Ottawa Senators, NHL
Hey everybody, in Canada, they actually got the name of their national capitol’s team right. It doesn’t use a slur (Washington’s football team), it doesn’t use a generic cover-all term for Canadian (like Nationals), it doesn’t simply spotlight the city’s status for attention (Capitals), and it makes sense (unlike Wizards). I don’t know exactly what kind of approval ratings Canada’s Parliament pulls in, but at least the hockey team in Canada’s national capitol succeeds in honoring its outpost. Senators carries weight and balance – two triple-syllable words with a short A in the middle surrounded by harder sounds – while the branding and regionalism go with the territory.

18: New Orleans Saints, NFL
It’s funny to me that a laid-back city known mainly for its vices like New Orleans would be nicknamed the Saints, but then again, New Orleans is a Catholic outpost in an area of the country which is known for being Baptist. Saints holds a double meaning for the popular song “When the Saints Go Marching In,” an old gospel song which is now best known for the many jazz covers it inspired, very fitting in the birthplace of jazz. By combining the city of New Orleans with the idea of being a saint, the New Orleans Saints have taken a very unique road to being a standout: There’s no appeal to anger, intensity, ferocity, or savagery anywhere in this name. Instead, the name Saints holds a virtuous light up to the imagery, giving the team a positive symbol of human goodness, while the city’s name has become synonymous with creativity, uniqueness, and open-mindedness. Recently, New Orleans has become known as a city of resilience, full of people who continued to believe in it even after an enormous hurricane swept in and washed out many of its residents. It’s no wonder the New Orleans Saints have become the favorite football team of everyone in the country to some extent.

17: Texas Rangers, MLB
A few points are deducted because these guys are, sadly, forced to share their nickname with a certain NHL team which really doesn’t have any business using it. There’s no forgetting the branding, though, because the most famous statewide law enforcement agency in the country uses it. I’m not talking about just the nickname, either, but the entire thing: The Texas Rangers, who are actually more famous than the baseball team named after them, thanks in large part to a weekly action TV show starring Chuck Norris. (Although, since winning the Pennant in 2010 and 2011, the baseball Rangers have started making up a little ground, particularly after that vicious 2011 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.) Even if that weren’t the case, Texas Rangers is a great name standing alone, since Texas is synonymous with vast skies and wide open land ranges. Rangers also works as a colloquial to the nickname of Texas – The Lone Star State – because we tend to think of rangers as rugged individualists in the same vein as we do cowboys. Yeah, the Texas Rangers have every right to take themselves after their state rather than their metropolitan area (Dallas, if you don’t know).

16: Denver Nuggets, NBA
Let’s be frank: A small lump of rock isn’t the most inspiring thing to name a sports team after, even if it is supposed to represent a nugget of gold. The importance of the name Nuggets, though, comes from the fact that an entire state was built around the power of small shiny nuggets – Colorado was populated by the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush. That means there’s significant history and regionalism surrounding the name, not to mention a hefty dose of originality from a team that decided it wanted to take a chance with a name. Gold nuggets are a huge deal, in any case; they have the potential to put lots of money into the economy, and who doesn’t love money? So there are some good colloquialisms to be drawn from a nugget of gold: Gold means power, gold means wealth, gold means Murphy’s Golden Rule: Whoever has the gold makes the rules. So let’s stop knocking this team name as useless lumps when they can do all that.

15: Philadelphia Phillies, MLB
This name wins the regionalization contest hand down. If you ever forget where this team plays, just think of the nickname, and it will tell you everything you need to know about who you are and where you’re from. It one incredible swoop, Phillies nails everything right about team names: It’s regional, unique, memorable, original, and brands the team with a hot iron without even trying. Like the Los Angeles Angels, it makes the city nickname into the team nickname. Granted this name came from a time when every baseball team was named after its city, but that Phillies is the lone survivor speaks legions about its staying power and its resonance, especially if you’re also aware of the fact that it survived an incredible THREE efforts to change it.

14: Baltimore Ravens, NFL
I put Baltimore’s divisional rivals, the Cleveland Browns, way down at number 106, where I asked why Browns fans keep giving the Baltimore Ravens shit about their name. Here we are, in the top 20, and I’m still confused. Baltimore Ravens brings us the coolest literary allusion on this list. Baltimore was the original home of all-time American literary giant Edgar Allen Poe. Poe wrote an iconic poem called The Raven during a career which, while tragically understated during his own time, was blessed in historical hindsight when it inspired countless mystery and horror authors. That’s an awesome element in regionalizing and branding the team while also trying to get it to transcend football and appeal to literature geeks. The raven is also a great bird to use in an image, because instead of making an appeal to kitsch freaks or going with ferocity, ravens make an appeal to the terrifying and mysterious. They’re large and black, and can spook people in dark places. And so, be that as it may, ravens are frequently used in superstitions to mark omens, set moods, or act as psychological conductors. It’s pretty incredible to think that with all the birds flying around out there, more teams didn’t try to go with an image which holds that kind of power.

13: New York Knickerbockers, NBA
This one is based on a term popularized from another literary allusion, this time from Washington Irving. Irving’s first major book was called A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty by Diedrich Knickerbocker. Diedrich Knickerbocker was a fictional name Irving used in what was really an early version of a marketing campaign, but it was a nickname given as far back as the early Dutch settlers in New York state which eventually worked its way into regional lexicon first as a term for Manhattan’s aristocracy, then as a general term for New Yorker. As with the Ravens, that makes it both historical and regional, but it works better in this case because Knickerbocker was a term created strictly for the people living in the region. This team is like the Metropolitans in that it uses a stage name – the New York Knicks, and not only is Knick an effective nickname for Knickerbocker, it rolls just as nicely as a name for the team because it sort of combines the city’s name into one term: New York, combining the first sound in New and last in York, makes something very close to Knick when combined.

12: Boston Celtics, NBA
This would be a very good name no matter what, but this is one of those extremely rare cases where the mispronunciation makes it better. Celtics is usually pronounced with a K sound, but in this context, is pronounced with an S sound, which makes it roll nicely with Boston. The Celts were an ancient people with roots in Irish culture, who eventually diversified into a few different cultures, including the cultures of today’s British, Scottish, Irish, and Welsh people. The modern Celtic identity is mostly associated with the Irish, and Boston has a population of over 50 percent with Irish roots. It’s also a heavy stronghold of Irish Catholicism. That brings context to the team name. You have to give Celtics credit for not being degrading, too – unlike a certain sports program at the University of Notre Dame.

11: Houston Astros, MLB
It’s a little surprising to me that more teams don’t try to use space imagery. After all, powerful objects exist there, where they fly at incredible speeds. Yet, here’s a team name that can’t decide on just one of those objects…. So it takes a name that encompasses all of them! Astro is of course synonymous with space, which is fantastic for one of only a handful of cities on the planet that has a right to make an association with space. Houston is known as Space City, after all, and it beats a lot of the other associations you could make with Houston.

10: Seattle Mariners, MLB
This team replaced another baseball team called the Seattle Pilots, and I have trouble deciding which name is better. There’s certainly not much to complain about with this one. Seattle has an aviation history – Boeing is located there – but it also has a history as a major shipbuilding home and a reputation as a transportation center which was solidified during the Klondike Gold Rush in 1897. So a name honoring sailors makes perfect sense, and it’s unique enough to be something not every city in the country can name a team. You think Dallas or Kansas City residents would ever buy into a team called the Mariners? The name also gives them the right to use the Mariner’s Star to brand themselves, another thing no other team can claim. Mariners also holds significant weight as a name – evenly balanced with its city name with three syllables – but what I really like about it is that, like the Seattle Seahawks, it holds another cloaked allusion to the city name. A mariner is a sailor. Seattle is a port city and a transportation hub whose first three letters are “sea.” That’s something even the Pilots didn’t have. You know what? I think I prefer the name Seattle Mariners to Seattle Pilots after all.

9: Philadelphia 76ers, NBA
Yes, this sucker is a monster of jumpy, soundalike consonants. But it somehow still manages to have an even balance, only this one is two five syllable words which both sound like a wrecking ball smashed its way the vowels which would have otherwise smoothed it out. I don’t think the people of Philadelphia, though, would have it any other way. 76ers is a reference to the year of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which took place in Philadelphia in 1776, bringing those regionalization and branding points, and that’s only helped by the fact that 76 is, according to reputation, a number which dominates modern Philadelphia. It’s another instance where the city gets exclusive awesome branding rights based on its history. Also, despite being such a mouthful, you have to admit the name does hold a certain charm: Philadelphia is dominated by PH and L sounds while 76ers makes you fly around those S sounds.

8: Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL
A name and city perfectly matched. Steelers is an honorific for steelworkers, and while steelworkers aren’t especially unique, no city had more of them than Pittsburgh. Steeler isn’t a particularly rugged-sounding name, but it does invoke images of molten metal being poured from giant buckets in huge factories, so there’s imagery that goes with Steelers. Pittsburgh has lately been the great success story of the Rust Belt, turning itself around after decades of depression through an infusion of modern industries, small projects, and utilization of its universities. Still, a lot of people there probably remember the bad old days, and as long as the Steelers exist, it will always be a reminder of both Pittsburgh’s past and the way people were able to keep their heads up, never believing their city was truly defeated when the bad times hit.

7: Baltimore Orioles, MLB
Yes folks, there is a real bird whose official name is the Baltimore oriole. It lives in the eastern and midwestern United States and received its name from having a physical resemblance to the Old World Oriolidae family, which is otherwise unrelated. Mostly, the oriole is a common perching bird, and can usually be found foraging in your backyard trees, shrubs, and backyard hummingbird feeders while chasing down the occasional insect. Not much different from an average blue jay or cardinal, both of which I slammed, but the Baltimore Orioles are rescued by their branding: It was given the name Baltimore oriole because its colors resembled those on Lord Baltimore’s Coat of Arms. I don’t know how a bird can be more regionalized than that, but the state of Maryland sure tried: The Baltimore oriole is Maryland’s official state bird! The name has a very nice roll to go with it, featuring Baltimore’s final syllable having the same sound as Orioles’ first syllable.

6: St. Louis Blues, NHL
Here’s another name taken from a classic song which also serves as the title of a music genre, not to mention what Blues fans find themselves singing during the postseason more often than not these days. “St. Louis Blues” is the title of a very real jazz song, and St. Louis became a highly regarded blues outpost when the musical genre slowly made its way north from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago. The title means the song is instantly regional, and it’s unique because music isn’t something that gets mentioned a lot in sports team names. Only the New Orleans Saints and Utah Jazz have that distinction, and the Saints got their name from a single word in a song while the Jazz name is grossly out of place. The St. Louis Blues have no such problems with their name.

5: Houston Rockets, NBA
Originally called the San Diego Rockets after a very silly title San Diego once bestowed onto itself, this team kept their name when they were forced to move to Houston. And in a startling contrast to the Utah Jazz or Los Angeles Lakers names, this is a name that might have been barely average during its time in its old home, but became an incredible fit in its new one. You know why Houston is nicknamed Space City? Because that’s where they launch rockets! Real rockets, the ones that carry people into space! NASA’s main control center is located in Houston, which means that every space mission ever launched in the United States – and some in foreign countries – kept in touch with the ground via the control station in Houston. Also, a rocket is a great colloquial for modernity, and despite the reputation of Texas, that’s one thing Houston is getting in spades – Houston is the fourth-largest city in the United States at the moment, has over two million people, is growing, and considered a solid place to live. Cities don’t get to that position by trying to become blasts from the past. The name isn’t exactly original, but actual rockets are such a huge deal in Houston’s importance to the country and the world that the otherwise so-so branding gets elevated much like a real rocket.

4: Milwaukee Brewers, MLB
Whether or not Milwaukee has a right to be proud of its beer isn’t up for debate – that’s where they make Miller, so anyone heard defending that shit needs to be immediately forced to live in Greenland and forced to subside on Schlitz and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Milwaukee is a famous brewing hotbed, though, so it has every right to name a team the Brewers. The term isn’t exclusive to Milwaukee – St. Louis and Denver have giant stakes in brewing too – but it’s the city where the brewing industry has the most visible presence. Milwaukee and beer go together like peanut butter and jelly, so much so that even the ballpark is plastered with the name of the brewing corporation. And, of course, the brewer is the guy who makes the beer, so like the Steelers, this team is honoring the silent workers of a very old profession which is still very important in this country. This might be a good time to thank your deity of choice that most American sports leagues don’t do European soccer-style names; we might otherwise have ended up with something corporatized and wretched, like the Milwaukee Millers.

3: San Francisco 49ers, NFL
As we all know, the NFL is in love with images that it sucks at living up to. It infects the naming system as well as anything else. The league has a love affair with ferocity and, while there are probably no more bad names in the NFL than in any other league, it makes the NFL’s missteps particularly glaring. Washington’s football team, having a whopping four teams – including two 90’s expansions – named after big cats, two names for giants, two for birds of prey, one of those ridiculous teams named after a region instead of a place, plus the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills, and I didn’t even include everything. When the NFL does a name the right way, though, it turns out excellent, and there’s no better example of that than the San Francisco 49ers. Number names might come off as silly, but numbers have a way of regionalizing the team through huge aspects of their cities like little else. In this case, it sheds history’s light on the 1849 Gold Rush which brought swaths of people to California, resulting in California’s statehood two years later. 49ers were the nicknames given to the gold rushers, and in that single marvelous placement, the name becomes exclusive to San Francisco, historical, original, and memorable all at the same time, and the connection is so well-known that it doesn’t require tons of time to explain. The name is a little on the hard side to say, with eight total syllables which mostly sound completely different, but they all feature hard sounds for a very nice weight distribution.

2: Detroit Pistons, NBA
Here’s what we think of when we think of pistons: Parts of a constantly-moving machine, working together all at once in order to generate power. Anyone can appreciate that aspect of a name like the Pistons, all the more so if they know the Detroit Pistons won each of their three NBA Championships working in a very similar fashion – eschewing individual statistics in favor of a hard-fighting machine that works evenly (none of Detroit’s title teams featured any scorers who averaged 20 points per game). It’s a beautiful image anyone would want to associate with their favorite team, and the idea of pistons working to power something bigger denotes a scrappiness that matches its downtrodden city perfectly. The piston is a fitting image for Detroit, not only for the city’s history as America’s premier automaker, but for something that refuses to quit or give up. America might be giving up on Detroit, but Detroit isn’t giving up on itself. Pittsburgh was in the same position not too long ago, and look what’s happening there; in the meantime, Buffalo seems poised to make its move as well. We’re all cheering for Detroit here.

1: Portland Trail Blazers, NBA
So you have a sport like basketball, which is played at high speeds – blazing speeds, one might say! You decide to stick a team in a snug little outpost in the pacific northwest which most people don’t even realize exists. (The Blazers were created in 1970, long before Portland was the cool alternative to Seattle…. Hell, long before Seattle was ever even cool.) So you’re basically blazing the professional sports trail to Portland, and hell, even with Portland growing and becoming more important now, the other leagues have yet to follow you there. Portland still has a kind of outpost reputation, with an abundance of outdoorsy things to do, and back when most of the pacific northwest was unknown to Europeans and virtually impossible to get to, the people who made the trip were master outdoorsmen who were true pioneers in exploring and recording the territory – trail blazers in a handful of ways. Trail Blazers is a name which acknowledges the speed of its sport and the historical and regional aspects of its metropolitan area. There’s no doubt that it sticks out; it’s simple but highly original because no other team has any right to it, and trying to call a team from anywhere else just the Blazers would be generic 90’s residue. That means Trail Blazers is a fantastic way of branding a team which no one is likely to ever forget, even less so when you realize how cool it sounds and how easily it rolls off your tongue. The Portland Trail Blazers have been noted for being an underrated team with some significant on-court successes, but there’s no question about their name. It’s the best name in the major North American professional sports pantheon.

My 2014 List of Things I Hope Go Extinct

My 2014 List of Things I Hope Go Extinct

I know that at some point around New Year’s, it’s customary to write up a list of the greatest triumphs of the past year. I, however, am a contrarian prick, and so I’m going to do the opposite and present this list of things I hate that I would like to see die off in the next year.

The University of Buffalo Chemistry Department
It’s bad enough that the textbooks and equipment alone cost a truckload of money for anyone to be able to take this course. After getting all them, you have to purchase a damned computer code in order to have any access to the homework assignments, and you have to turn in all your work by a certain date. Yes, that’s important in schooling, but after a certain date, they cut off the acceptance of any and all assignments, leaving people who weren’t able to get their book on time with no options to get them in. It’s nice that the lab equipment doesn’t cost much to replace if it gets lost or broken – I lost a burner lighter which only cost me $.26 (yes, that’s cents) to replace – but no other college course on Earth apparently places its students at every possible financial disadvantage only to fail them so they have to go through it again the following semester. This isn’t education, it’s class warfare.

The Olympics
Ohhh…. So we have a corporate-sponsored series of sporting events based on an ancient Greek sporting tradition which mangle and maul the originals so much that the ancient Greeks would never recognize them. They’re known to cause host cities to shut down small businesses, destroy large chunks of poor neighborhoods, cause nationwide debts, and hold cities under martial law, and it’s only NOW, with Russia’s new set of anti-gay laws, that people are finally waking up to the fact that the International Olympic Committee is basically a corporate terrorist organization. The presentation is beamed in over tape, and many of the sports that get shown are flash events anyway. Yet, despite all this, we continue to pick and choose heroes who will be forgotten after two weeks, and hold them up to some torchlight of sporting purity under the assumption that god and country are the only things on the mind of a bunch of young, hormonal kids whose training in many cases left them depraved of a real life. You wonder why Michael Phelps smoked marijuana. I’m angrier at the fact that he believed he had to apologize.

Architectural Rules
Freedom Tower in New York City is now officially the tallest building in the country, even though Chicago’s Sears Tower has more accessible floors. A panel of architects gave the designation to Freedom Tower because of a ridiculous technicality with which Freedom Tower’s antennae – which is exactly what it is – was counted as part of the building. If it looks like an antennae and functions like an antennae, it doesn’t take a jump to a conclusion so much as a small step. All the architects on that panel would have to be New Yorkers, because New Yorkers never miss an opportunity to whip out their dick substitutes whenever they can to show everyone else why their city is the most overprivileged, self-absorbed, elitist city on Earth.

McDonald’s
According the the Mickey D’s bigwhigs, it’s easy to live on their salary if you just hold down a second job and give up on a few essential payments. Apparently, heat payments max out at $50, health insurance is only $20, and $100 will cover all sorts of luxuries like groceries. They also took the time to tell their employees that it’s always nice to tip the nanny, and presumably the limo driver which poor people can apparently afford. According to Forbes Magazine, an authority on money, has this to say about Mickey’s lack of reality:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/janetnovack/2013/07/23/mcdonalds-minimum-wage-budget-ignores-tax-credits-food-stamps-and-reality/

Religious Inspirational Stories About Disabled People
It’s bad enough that our society insists on turning people with very real day-to-day physical challenges into inspirational tokens for other people who use these stories to feel better able themselves. Bringing some sort of god into it, though, is one of the most despicable things that can be done. If this god is brought into it in a negative way, that means the disabled person is being punished. If it’s in a positive way, then it’s often a portrayal of a person receiving sort sort of extra heavenly reward, which trivializes what some of these people have to face. I have a very deeply held suspicion that the people who buy into this tripe are doing it out of less sympathy than reassurance; after all, if someone sees a disabled person doing something you wouldn’t ordinarily think a disabled person was capable of doing, it gets him off the guilt hook about the fact that there are a lot of ways we make the everyday lives of the disabled more difficult.

Bottled Water
The United States has the best tap water available on the planet, and this is how elitist we are: We bitch about it endlessly to the point that even the biggest tree-huggers in the country advocate buying it with huge extra expenses in wasteful plastic bottles. Then we trick ourselves into thinking the corporations who provide them are personally sitting at a spring brook, trying to coax the water into those bottles instead of doing what they really do, which is simply running the plain tap water through a few extra filters. Of course, fluoride gets brought into the discussion as being the silent killer despite the fact that there’s plenty of it in our toothpaste and tea, and its presence has dramatically reduced recorded instances of tooth decay. I study nutrition, and my prof – who, by the way, works in the official capacity as a scientist for my school, with a lab and everything, and who has run the tests – was blunt about the fact that everyone’s fluoride paranoia doesn’t hold water. No matter how many idiot students she gets who try to argue with her about it.

United States Congress
This is the thing that probably goes without saying. Congress voted quite repeatedly to get the Affordable Healthcare Act repealed, let the government shut down because they wanted to piss all over each other’s territories, and took good long vacations in the middle of a financial crisis. It continually amazes me that there are people who want to grant these thieves more power. We all want the ability to see Congress as a united body with the best interests of the American people at heart, but that has never, ever been the case. Congress has never been anything more than a group of individuals, all representing their corporate overlords, whose purposes upon election are to settle their own petty squabbles.

Yahoo Mail
It’s pretty bad that Yahoo had to ASK the majority of its employees to switch to its own email service. It’s even worse that only about 25 percent of their employees decided to actually make the switch. Yahoo was my first email, and I’m in the process of making the full switch. Yahoo is slow, half the time it doesn’t want to delete the emails you want deleted or even take you to your emails at all, and when it made its last switch months ago, it still feels the need to let you know about the differences by taking its users to a screen trumping the switches after you log in. It’s also slamming spam emails into the top of your mailbox nowadays which advertisers are obviously paying them to do, since they can’t be deleted.

Facebook Video Game Requests
My god, Facebook has more video games than are buried in a New Mexico landfill, and it wants you to know about and play every last one of them. When one of your friends gets addicted to a game – hell, IF they’re actually playing them at all, and knowing Facebook, it’s a strong possibility they’re not – you’ll inevitably start getting the invitations to play right along with them. There’s no way to completely turn them all off at the same time, so they’ll all be there to clog his feed. And the right to play the video game comes from you conceding all your Facebook information to some outside source, so, people, no, I’m not interested in joining your game.

The Fashion Media
The absurdity of this doesn’t strike you until you really think about it. Author John Steinbeck once said that the reason socialism never caught on in the United States is because everyone thinks they’re temporarily embarrassed millionaires, and nothing is a better testament to that than the fact that there’s an entire wing of the media dedicated to what kinds of clothes people are wearing. When you tune in to the fashion reports, they always seem to revolve around the latest works in one particular show with supermodels in an exotic location. When it gets beamed through to you, the models are always dressed up in weird space designs that never seem to actually show up on a market where they’re accessible to us lowly knaves. They tend to get made up for one particular model – or at least a single body type – for one show before being thrown aside and never seen again. If they do get onto the market, they’ll be so expensive that you could afford to not just buy a whole wardrobe for the price, but get it tailored to your personal specifications. The media takes it upon itself to then stand off to the side throwing thumbs up or thumbs down along with snarky comments about what they would have done with the outfit to make it more palatable. Somehow, this is thought to be important, even though everyone knows all these outfits are either single-wear outfits or too expensive for anyone to ever buy them. There’s no way to justify the existence of fashion reporting, since high-end fashion is something no one will ever have to worry about.

The Great Pizza War

The Great Pizza War

The relentless narcissism of New York City recently made it place a free-standing structure on top of its shiny new, skyline-defining skyscraper in order to win the country’s tallest building crown on a ridiculous technicality. After the announcement, some commentators said it didn’t matter, and that we all knew which city had the better pizza. Okay, buildings are one thing; pizza is the thing here that really matters. And indeed, we do know which city has the better pizza, but there are some folks who simply don’t want to accept it. Like, just to pick a random example, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show.

After the announcement and an offhand comment about Chicago-style pizza being better, Stewart went off on one of his most spectacular rants, decrying the famous deep dish. In response, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel was characteristically weak. In a move that wasn’t met with quite as much publicity, he sent a couple of deep dish pizzas to The Daily Show studios in New York City. There was a note too, something along the lines of “dead fish.” I guess that would indicate the pizzas were filled with anchovies. Whatever point Mayor Emmanuel was trying to prove is lost on me. What’s worse is that the interpretation of the gesture is so open to interpretation that some onlookers took it as Chicago’s concession. The Daily Show responded to that with some grainy footage of a dog taking a quick whiff of the deep dish and running off in horror. Rahm, uh, what the hell were you trying to do anyway? Yeah, you need to leave this to the pros. Like me.

There’s no doubt to me about which pizza is better, and there shouldn’t be to you, either. Given the option, what will you take – a pizza or a thin piece of paper that has to be crammed into your mouth whole in order for it to be bite-sized? Yeah, that’s what I thought. If you want to eat a thin crust pizza, make sure you don’t overdo the beer because when you get too drunk and pass out onto the pizza, that crust isn’t anywhere close to thick enough to cushion the blow. You’ll slam your head against the surface of the table too hard and kill yourself.

Let’s cut to the heart of what New York-style pizza is: It’s sopped paper with red paint and melted wax on top. What’s more, it’s limp. How does one eat a piece of pizza when it keeps literally falling flat when you’re trying to take a bit out of it? New York-style pizza is a kind of pizza that literally can’t stand on its own.

Yeah, deep dish pizza is thick enough to crawl into and sleep inside to keep warm. Somehow, this is treated like some kind of big problem. I tried to crawl under a New York-style pizza to keep warm once and I ended up getting hypothermia.

Sauce on top, toppings and cheese cooked into the bottom crust. You know what this is? This is the perfect redefinition of a pizza. Any idiot can put the ingredients on the top of the pizza in a flash, ramp up the oven, and burn the thing, but it takes a real master to place everything in a position where it’s poised to fall out of the pizza upon slicing it open and it doesn’t. The thickness is beautiful in the incredible explosion of taste you get when you stuff a piece into your mouth and bite down and realize deep dish pizza isn’t exactly hurting for toppings.

At some point, someone will try to make the portability argument, but since when the hell is pizza supposed to be a portable food? Am I planning on gorging myself on the L? What’s disgusting is trying to imagine a proponent of New York-style pizza on the subway, standing with his hand raised a foot over his mouth because New York-style pizza is lim as hell, gently trying to lower the tip to get a bite which will probably taste like the surrounding air because New York-style pizza is so thin that all the surrounding smells and tastes can be absorbed into it in rapid order, like with baking soda, and it will quickly overcome the actual (nonexistent) taste of the pizza itself. This is something New Yorkers conveniently forget: Their pizza quickly absorbs every smell from the wood grain to the stale metals, but they taste it and call it pizza. There’s no talking them out of it, since they believe America west of the Hudson River is a myth, and have therefore never left New York City to try eating a real pizza in their lives.

Yeah, there’s no doubt that one of those cities’ pizza is better than the other. Chicago is the clear choice. You try going with New York City “pizza,” just save yourself a lot of trouble, pick up the entire pizza tray, and start licking it, because that’s the only way you’ll ever be able to taste it.

Freedom vs. Sears

Freedom vs. Sears

Well, don’t that just beat all. Freedom Tower is now finished and, depending on who you ask, it may or may not have supplanted the Sears Tower as the tallest building in the United States.

Architects are a finicky bunch, aren’t they? There are a million tiny little details which are there to decide where a building ends. To most onlookers, the answer is simple enough: The building’s end point is where solid matter doesn’t exist and the air begins. Architects, though, have a few interpretations which would probably be taught in common philosophy courses. Yes, the building ends there, but does it END there?

When you build a new building, there are a lot of things to be taken into account: You have the basement, which could potentially run down a dozen or so stories. There’s the point where the roof ends, the point where the antennae end, and the point where the roof turns into the ceiling, because of course there is.

So here’s Freedom Tower, ready to be crowned the brand new jewel of the New York City skyline. Admittedly, it’s a beautiful piece, but its roof technically ends a couple dozen feet short of the Sears Tower. Or does it? Well, the Freedom Tower architects decided to put a nice little point on the top of Freedom Tower which is accessible to regular people. It’s little more than a giant antennae, but that’s not enough to keep the high-end architects who run all the fancy architecture publications and award shows from giving it a nice, new reclassification based on a technicality: That big antennae is a spire. That spire adds to the height of Freedom Tower, and voila, New York City is now the new skyscraper capitol of America.

Chicago boosters are naturally crying fowl. And they have every right to cry fowl, too. Freedom Tower is 541 meters tall. There are masts in a lot of places in the country that are actually taller than Freedom Tower. Texas alone has a whopping seven masts that tower above the 600 meter mark, and that’s just Texas! The number of states with at least one structure taller than Freedom Tower is in double digits. Presumably, most of these things have ladders for the premium cable guys to get up and down, thus ensuring usability by humans. No, anyone trying to climb up the masts isn’t going to be able to visit the bathroom for a smoke break, but hey, the ladders count. So why are those suckers not being given the same consideration afforded to the spire on Freedom Tower? Is it some form of concrete-and-glass-ism that affects the architectural elite?

Maybe I shouldn’t make too big a deal out of it, though, because it’s not going to matter all that much in the end. I’m thinking the architecture boys must also be a bunch of Americans, because both Freedom Tower and the Sears Tower bow down before the real king of North American towers: The CN Tower, in Toronto. You know, in Canada. One wonders why Ontario’s 553-meter behemoth isn’t brought into the conversation.

Renaming the New York Bulls of Buffalo Whatever the University is Called

Renaming the New York Bulls of Buffalo Whatever the University is Called

It’s ludicrous to suggest that the University of Buffalo is undergoing an identity crisis now. UB was founded in 1846 and taken over by the SUNY system in the 1940’s, during which it was given an apparently endless series of names. That means UB is closing in on almost half its existence going through an identity crisis. When the university gods were naming schools, they must have been drunk when trying to attach a permanent moniker to UB. After a century of being known as the University of Buffalo, in the 1940’s the university gods proved to be a gaggle of cruel drunks and UB suddenly found itself with so many names that we’re all a little bit confused as to what to call it: Buffalo University; SUNY Buffalo; University AT Buffalo; State University of New York at Buffalo; or just Buffalo. Most people just stick to referring to it by its old, given name, the University of Buffalo.

Well, there is now a big ol’ monkey wrench being thrown into UB’s identity crisis, UB is setting out on a marketing program meant to re-spin the name of the place even more by emphasizing the part of the name that says “New York.” That means instead of being called whatever the hell it’s called now with “Buffalo” in the title, the university is going to be nationally known as the State University of New York. The University of Buffalo will become just a bit of a side name, even though it’s the flagship university in what’s really an overblown system consisting of 64 different schools of all tiers, from full blown university centers (University of Buffalo) to provincial university colleges (Empire State), technology colleges (Alfred State), and community colleges (Mohawk Valley). I can’t say I disagree with the naming, because if it works, people might begin to think of New York as something more than New York City, and UB will start to draw more students and better funding if said students are any good at football. Basically, it would give UB – by most accounts one of the best higher learning institutions in the country – more exposure and more national prominence. On the other hand, the city of Buffalo loses the claim to something which had, for the most part, been truly its own, and one of the big things it had to truly distinguish itself as someplace separate from New York City.

This semester is the official beginning of what people are commonly referring to the University at Buffalo New York Bulls Initiative marketing campaign. It’s starting through the athletic programs; the basketball court floor now has the title “State University of New York at Buffalo” embossed over an image of New York at center court, with the words “New York” the largest by a mile. The football team will be displaying the university name on its uniforms the very same way. Since that’s now set, there’s one important question I have: What the hell is up with that nickname? Bulls? Come on! That never made any sense as a name for a Buffalo team, and it damn sure doesn’t make sense for a team that wants to carry the name of the state – especially not with New York City’s Major League Soccer team wearing its corporatized nickname, the Red Bulls. So if the University of Buffalo wants to become the State University of New York, that nickname has to go. Here are some suggestions to replace it:

New York Buffaloes

What better way to appease everyone than by naming it after both the state and the city? The animal is already a very prominent symbol in the city, so the logo would design itself.

New York Orangemen

SUNY could win an enormous contingent of Syracuse fans with this one. Syracuse has been calling itself New York’s College Team forever, and after all the other college programs are out of the running for whatever prize they were in, most fans in the state rally around them. However, changing their nickname to the Orange didn’t go over very well. Many fans – myself included – still refuse to call them the Orange.

New York Canadians

There would be no mistaking this one. Living in certain parts of New York is being pretty much Canadian by default anyway.

New York Red Sox

While most New Yorkers who have nothing to do with New York City ARE Yankees fans, we detest being associated with New York City all the time by outsiders. The New York Bulls Initiative has the skunk of trying to ride New York City’s coattails, a fact that everyone knows. So hooking up with the title of the Yankees’ most hated rivals will make sure there’s distance between city and SUNY.

New York Fighting Irish

Same logic as above. If you’re trying to sponge off New York City, why not go for the deuce and hope your recruits will be sufficiently dumb enough to be tricked into thinking they’re playing for Notre Dame? Besides, Buffalo is a highly Irish and Catholic city.

New York Empires

It really is the perfect name for the flagship university of a state nicknamed the Empire State, which contains the World Capitol of Everything inside of its borders.

New York Staters

It’s the common lament of the expatriate upstate New York native that, upon telling people where they’re from, they always, unfailingly have to verbally place the addendum “the state, NOT the city!”

New York Nickels

Hey, if I can name the team after the city of Buffalo, I can create a nickname based on Buffalo’s own nickname, The Nickel City. (Again, I absolutely, positively refuse to recognize or acknowledge The Queen City as a nickname.)

Things I Miss Least About Chicago

Things I Miss Least About Chicago

I lived in Chicago for five years and was hoping to set roots down. It’s not the world’s best-kept secret that I miss the place, and so I briefly considered a list of things I miss about it.

When I started giving it some real thought, though, I realized such a list would be completely impossible. There are several reasons why, but I won’t regale you with the boring ones. I’ll just mention the big two: The first is that such a list would be a bit too personal for my own tastes and include concepts that are way too broad. Some of the stories I have from my life in Chicago go on quite a bit, and trying to condense them all in a list would necessitate the creation of an entire blog. (Which, by the way, I created a couple of years ago!) I would have to explain a lot of background details and in-jokes for a list like that to really fly.

The second reason is that there are simply way too many things I miss about The Windy City. It brings me a second time to the problem of it making the list too long.

Oh, what to do, what to do, what to do? Well, as I sat in a luxury hotel room on the set of a movie I was working on recently, me and a few other staffers and cast members conversed about this nasty heat that’s been holding the entire east coast hostage. As we lamented the heat in Buffalo, we began comparing it to the heat we had all felt in other places we had visited. Of course, the Chicago summer was what I had easily the best acquaintance with, so it became my immediate conversational victim. Then the idea hit me: I’ll write an anti-Chicago list, featuring everything I hated about the city! And that’s how we got to this point!

Summer
The warmest season and I were never on the best of terms in Upstate New York, but while the humidity could be unbearable, the heat was at least usually temperate. People from Buffalo take great delight in telling those from out of the area the city has never had a 100-degree day, and that the city averages only three 90-degree days per year. The big lake next to Buffalo sort of conditions the air.

Chicago’s summers have the very same type of weather, but with a quantification of about ten times. It gets hot, sticky, and uncomfortable. The sun beats up on people on clear days, and when it rains, it’s like the sky is taking one of those ongoing, powerful drunken leaks. All storms are severe – my first summer in Chicago, there were three tornadoes that stopped just short of the city in one month. In Mostly Harmless, Douglas Adams wrote this about New York City: “A lot of the inhabitants of New York will honk on mightily about the pleasures of spring, but if they actually knew the first thing about the pleasures of spring they would know of at least 5,983 better places to spend it than New York, and that’s just on the same latitude.” Ditto Chicago in summer.

Whenever I discuss the weather in Chicago, people always ask me about the cold. I always tell them that if you’ve spent any real time living in Buffalo, the cold isn’t anything they can’t handle – it’s the summers they have to watch out for.

Lack of Civic Pride
Buffalo knows it’s never going to be the world class metropolis New York City is, and there’s a kind of dignity in knowing that which lets the people here attend to their business without a care about what happens there. Yes, we hate the place politically, but that’s mostly because it’s so disproportionally represented at every political level. Beyond that, though, the only real thing in New York City that’s of concern to upstaters is the fortunes of the New York Yankees, the favored baseball team across the state.

In terms of civic pride, Chicago is a classic bully. Chicagoans will always be the first to attack any other city to make themselves feel good about living in Chicago, even though Chicago is a world class city in every possible way. Unless, of course, there’s a possibility that the city in question might actually be some kind of rival to Chicago in some way – attacks on major cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Atlanta inexplicably aren’t seen that often. And if New York City is dragged into the equation, well, a cursory glance at any of the newspapers or civic websites reveals the motherload of inferiority complexes; newspapers and civic websites are always clogged with people moaning about how Chicago will never be like New York City.

Redeye
A daily free rag published by the Chicago Tribune, Redeye may be the most insipid newspaper on Earth. I’m saying this, and I grew up reading The Buffalo News. Redeye has lists of bars, restaurants, and events, but those lists are microscopic in terms relative to the size of the city. There’s two or maybe three pages of substantial news events, all overshadowed by sports and celebrity coverage which is equal that length, written completely in bullets and blurbs, and consisting mainly of photographs and captions. For the first few years I was there, it also featured a sex column written by a womanizer.

Redeye may be the very symbol of Chicago’s inferiority complex. All other city-bashing starts in Redeye, and the celebrity buzz tends to treat celebrity sightings like the most amazing thing since Al’s Italian Beef, even though several celebrities call Chicago home and can be found roaming the Lake Shore Trail or soaking in Cubs games.

A friend of mine once delivered a speech at a religious convention in which she used the day’s Redeye as a prop. She mentioned the cover, which contained a picture of George Clooney, and got a laugh. Then she said – tongue completely in cheek – that she opened it in the hopes of finding something substantial, and got the biggest laugh of the convention.

Chicago is Not Broad-Shouldered
The Windy City is called The Windy City because the title was bestowed by a journalist who was covering Chicago’s notoriously corrupt politics. He called it The Windy City in regards to the fact that the local politicians were blowing hot air. Well, when the people there tell you how tough they are, they’re also spewing hot air. They take the smallest slurs against Chicago to heart. Most of them don’t know anything about how to properly weather out a bad winter, either, unless it’s by going to Florida for the season. This is not a populace that would ever think to lower itself to picking up snow shovels and digging out of a storm manually, as Buffalo did in 2001 when eight feet of snow fell in four days. They’ll buy out the local grocery store and wait for the city plows to bail them out – and that’s not a guarantee, since the snow removal department tends to run out of money.

Living Costs
My apartment in Chicago was one of those stereotypical walk-in closet-sized spaces. In Buffalo, it wouldn’t have been $400 a month. In Chicago, it cost $800 a month, and was considered a steal. I was rarely able to buy meat.

Buffalo is one of the worst cities in the country in taxes, so people in Buffalo have a hard time believing Chicago is even worse. The city has a ten percent sales tax, which was reduced TO ten percent! With the nasty income taxes being what they were, I was basically reduced to life on a $20 budget every week because I was an independent contractor who was making sub-minimum wage before taxes. This is why my life suddenly went south – it was too expensive to live there.

Parking
You would think that in a city with such excellent public transportation (and I mean that; yes, I complain about the CTA, but it never fails to get me where I need to go. If you don’t like it, try using the NFTA in Buffalo for a month!), more people would be willing to catch the bus and the L. Then again, there are 2.8 million people who live there.

I can’t forget the time my sister visited me and had to park two blocks over from my street. Or the time me and a girl I befriended at a local hostel tried to go to Millennium Park for an afternoon, but there were no open spaces in The Loop. I didn’t own a car, so this didn’t affect me most of the time, but tell any car-owning out-of-town buddies to bring their walking shoes.

Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are one of the crown jewels of Major League Baseball, and one of its most popular teams. Yet, the fans always appear convinced that there’s some great baseball conspiracy against them which keeps them out of World Series contention. Listen to fans complain about the collapse of 1969 or some rule about where the 1984 NLCS was played which they pulled out of their asses.

In my article about the Cubs, I made a few particularly harsh blanket remarks about the fans. Now, I didn’t mean them using complete blanket terminology; there are good people and devoted, knowledgeable fans in the Cubs’ base. Unfortunately, there tends to be a frat party mentality surrounding Wrigleyville, and during games with big opponents or at certain times, drunkenness takes over and invites a lot of boorish behavior which isn’t confined just to the stadium. Being in Wrigleyville during a Cubs game can be a trial of patience because the stadium, unlike every other baseball stadium, is right in the middle of the neighborhood. The team seems to encourage this – the Harry Caray statue in front of Wrigley Field comes off as an endorsement, and the celebrity rotation singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” doesn’t help.

Also, the owner of Wrigley Field doesn’t mind endangering the fans. The field is clearly falling apart – some spots are literally held up by nothing more than loose fishnetting – but it’s privately owned, and so the owner keeps refusing to repair the place. The fact that he’s using the White Sox’ public funds as leverage to get taxpayer cash of his own is the single greatest argument American sports has against public money being involved in professional sports.

Cycling in the Wind
Yes, The Windy City gets its share of the blowy stuff. If you’re into cycling, trying to ride a bicycle in the wind is like drinking a potion that allows you to walk through walls, then trying to walk through a cliff.

The Bid for the 2016 Olympics
So Mayor Richard Daley decided he wanted to wipe out a large public space in a poor neighborhood to build a big stadium and athlete housing which would have been used for two weeks. He wanted to add a fifth star to the Chicago city flag representing an Olympics he hadn’t even won yet.

This bid in and of itself, by the way, cost $50 million in taxpayer dollars. You want to know where all the tax money is going? Here’s your answer. The most offensive part is that his entire urban development plan seemed to hinge on getting the Olympics.

Frankly, one would have to be a complete fucking moron to even want and apply for the Olympics after knowing the kinds of wreckage they’ve been responsible for leaving in their host cities. Chicago would, in preparation, have gone through terrible traffic delays, small business shutdowns by the special, gestapo-like Olympics Police, construction, and poor people being herded out of the areas they lived in so the athletes could take over for two weeks. All on the public’s dime, of course, and in a city which wasn’t able to pay for it.