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Monday
Jul092012

Bang, bang: One way or another, Chicago will blow you away these days

Those who crave the diversity of urban life were like pigs in slop Sunday as they read the New York Times and Chicago Sun-Times.

First, the most influential daily detailed some of the social glories of being "Single in Chicago." It opened, "It's hard to decide, while sipping a citrine cocktail called Sex on the Roof, what to gawk at first: the go-go dancers in crimson panties or the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, Willis Tower, soaring like a giant glass beanstalk just beyond the windows. Either way, at Roof, the glossy club atop theWit hotel in Chicago, if you're single you can't lose: should a stranger faile to take your breath away, the skyline will."

There are many perils in dropping into any town for a quickie reporting jaunt and locals will deride the limited number of locales visited and a certain gee-whiz-these-Midwest-folks-are-friendly theme, with a New Yorker announcing that the chills she felt on an architectural boat tour had nothing to do with cold weather. "It was because the Windy City blew me away."

That's not all that is blowing folks away these days, and it's why Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his tourism aides just might not be aggressively passing this opus around. A sidebar on the plusses and minuses of traveling solo in Chicago includes this "not so good" matter: "Few avenues are bustling late at night. Take care: Homicides and shootings have increased over the last year."

Yup. Of course, the almost dominantly caucasian crowd tracked at the more upscale joints gravitated to by The Times need not fret. They, and the reporter, would have been reminded of that reality Sunday if they also picked up the Chicago Sun-Times' nearly 4,000-word report, "Chicago Under Fire."

 This piece was about a soaring murder ate, stunning gun violence and, most of all, the victims, who tend to be black and poor and to live far, far from theWit's rooftop bar and all those texting 20-somethings looking to score. But, taken together, they continue to bolster a quickly-forming image of a city out of control that could potentially be a political Achilles heel for a mayor whose first year in office has been an impressive one.

And, interestingly, both tales are about social networking.

Reporter Rosenbloom heralds a website called MeetUp via which local Chicagoans with similar interests can meet to play volleyball, drink or otherwise cavort. This is obviously in addition to just plunking oneself down at some beach or bar and playing things as they lay.

With murder, the Sun-Times noted the work of Andrew Papachristos, a Yale sociologist who's studied Chicago crime. Killings do occasionally occur in random fashion but generally the victims have ties to either the killer or to people associated with the killers."Seventy percent of the killings he studied occured within what Papchristos determined was a social network of only about 1,600 people---out of a population in those neighborhoods of about 80,000."

So gaity and mayhem can all be had via a smart phone supplemented by a credit card or a handgun. Cheery. That helps explain why the Chicago cops are spending more time studying Facebook pages.

And, on Monday, back from vacation, the mayor will announce a new anti-crime initiative of some sort with his smart but beleagurered New York-bred police chief. There have been many anti-crime initiatives announced this past year, with a frustrated jury of citizens still out when it comes to a whirling dervish chief executive and a complex issue for which he's generally avoided personal responsibility.

When his press conference is over, he could always head to the corner of a bar with great vistas, order a Sex on the Roof and nostalgically recall his days of being young and single in the city. At minimum, somebody will tell him they like his suit and tie. We are, after all, really friendly here.

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