The Night Chicago Died: Suddenly, It's Hard to Be a Sinner in the Windy City
Gillespie, Nick, Reason
ALMOST 20 YEARS ago, I visited the Sears Tower in Chicago. Before being allowed to enjoy the view from what was then the world's tallest building, visitors had to sit through a promotional film about how rough and tough and great and booming the Second City was--never mind that the proud hometown of baseball's sad-sack Cubs had already slipped behind Los Angeles and was officially the U.S.'s third-largest municipality.
At some point in the film, the announcer-possessed of a tooth-rattling basso profundo usually reserved for more elevated art forms such as NFL highlight reels--proclaimed, apropos of nothing, that "Chicago ain't no sissy town!" He was, if memory serves, quoting an alderman of some other species of criminal native to the Windy City.
But it turns out that Chicago is a sissy town, and not because it hosted the 2006 Gay Games. Chicago--that "stormy, husky, brawling ... City of the Big Shoulders," in Carl Sandburg's evocative phrase--seems hell-bent on putting a choke hold on just about everything that makes a city a city.
During the last year, reports Don Babwin of the Associated Press, Chicago snuffed out smoking "in nearly all public places" and pulled the plug on talking on cell phones while driving. In April the "Hog Butcher for the World" (Sandburg again) became the first city to ban the sale of foie gras. The denizens of Al Capone's old stomping grounds just couldn't bear the thought of serving a tasty treat created by force-feeding geese.
In July officials held hearings on banishing trans fat from Chicago's fast food chains, as if such a move could clear the arteries of the town that gave unto the world the deep-dish pizza and is, according to Men's Fitness, the fattest city in the USA. The Chicago City Council considered forcing dog owners to implant microchips in pooches for identification purposes. (Pit bulls wouldn't need the ID chips. If the council got its way, the breed would be no more welcome in Chicago than Mrs. O'Leary's cow.) Council members, notes the Chicago Tribune, "have threatened to use their legislative might to improve living standards for elephants . …