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10 things everyone thinks about Chicago but no one will admit

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June 06, 2013|By Ernest Wilkins, @ErnestWilkins | RedEye

After living in Chicago for a while, you come to notice patterns. You see the same people on your daily commutes, you frequent the same bars and you find yourself talking about the weather 80 percent of the time. What about the stuff we see every day but don’t talk about? There are a lot of things that occur in Chicago that most--if not all--of us are aware of, yet we don’t discuss them. Allow me to fix that. Here's 10 things everyone thinks about Chicago but no one will admit.

1: You can become very successful in this city just by keeping status quo.

There was a saying back in the Richard J. Daley era about the strategy of the Democratic "machine." “Don't make no waves, Don't back no losers.” That "keep your head down and your nose clean" mentality is still prevalent in this town. Let's not kid ourselves here: Corporate and political types being risk-averse isn't a Chicago-specific quality. However, people actively seeking to not rock the boat in regards to business and culture or just regurgitating already-established concepts in other cities can be (and is) a very lucrative profession in Chicago. At times, it can even seem like deviating from the "rah-rah Chicago No ketchup '85 Bears Ditka sausage" narrative can be frowned upon to the point where any sort of attempt to point out actual flaws and glaring social issues can expect to be shouted down in a hail of angry comments and backlash.

2: In Chicago, the people with money have no taste and the people with taste have no money.

From hackneyed attempts at restaurants and nightclubs to the consistent stifling of sustainable fashion/music scenes, Chicago culture seems to be at the whim of powder-blue-shirt-with-a-white-T-shirt-poking-out corporate types who hold the checkbook. The solution to this issue: Those on the low end of the spectrum should attempt to use the system to their advantage. Tons of corporations have funds set aside for endowments of the arts or enriching small businesses or whatever. Put together a plan. Go get you some money and then do what you do better than everyone else. Take a look at what the local food and booze communities have done by building a fiercely loyal support system and pooling efforts to increase awareness, profits and the legislation that comes from successful creative endeavors. As for the folks with a large amount of money and no idea what to do with it? Look into the scene of what you like (or have a secretary do it or something.) Are you into clothes? Go hit Macy's Fashion Incubator or that start-up making custom suits or one of the young designers currently hawking their wares at the boutiques around town. Like art? Hit the Second Fridays art stroll in Pilsen. Buy something. If Chicago takes time to support Chicago, then everyone wins. (Actually, rich people?  I don't care what you do, just stop booking the goddamn Gin Blossoms to play major shows in 2013.)


3: The biggest celebrities in Chicago are the athletes.


We make cases for natives like Jennifer Hudson, Vince Vaughn and their ilk, but you're out of your mind if you don't think the most famous people in this city aren't the athletes playing for our local sports teams. The Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks (as of recently), Cubs and White Sox run this town thanks to die-hard fan bases bordering on insanity. When Jay Cutler says his toe hurts, expect coverage. When the Cubs finally win the World Series, expect this city to burn to the ground.

4: A lot of Chicagoans simply don't care about the South Side.


Be it lack of exposure, ignorance or preconceived notions about crime (I blame Jim Croce,) a lot of Chicagoans don't care about what happens south of Roosevelt. With a large portion of Chicagoans moving in from other parts of the Midwest, there has been a lot of misinformation being spread around. "Oh, don't even bother to look on the South Side" turns into a Chicagoan living here for five to eight years and only seeing the South Side during the Irish parade. That detachment leads to things like businesses not wanting to open and food deserts and overall second-class treatment. Not a good look.

5: The CTA isn’t as bad as we like to complain it is.


There are a LOT of things that suck about our public transportation system, but there are also a ton of qualities that people from major cities would literally kill for. Don’t believe me? Go take a train in Atlanta.

6: The "Wicker Park is for hipsters" thing hasn't been accurate for five years.


Do we even know what a hipster is anymore? At this point, it’s someone who had a PBR once at a party, right? Wicker Park is flourishing with moneyed families and strollers as far as the eye can see. The traditional idea of a beardo in a plaid shirt has been replaced by the same bros you can find in Lincoln Park on any given Friday night.

7: For whatever reason, Chicagoans still have an inferiority complex when it comes to New York City.

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